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Reboot 9/Day 2: Disclipline & Exhaustion

My mode yesterday was the very conscious opposite of my usual mode at work, namely “make no plans, forget the clock, see what happens.” As a result I got in the wrong train, arrived at reboot late, missed some lectures, and none of it bothered me in the slightest. At first. In the afternoon a strange sense of guilt developed, and I pledged to myself to put the discipline cap on for day 2 and get as much out of it all as I could.

So far it’s worked. Up 15 minutes before the alarm went off, out on the street half an hour later and more than enough time for trains (the right ones) and a few minutes to sit on the lawn before the first talk got going.

Stowe Boyd started the day with “Flow: a New Consciousness For a Web of Traffic”. Stowe’s a consultant who helps companies build social apps, but more importantly, he thinks a hell of a lot of good thoughts about social tools and their impact on individuals and society. The soul of his talk is a quote from Kenneth Bouldin: “We make our tools and then they shape us,” and the tools he was on about are of course social apps such as Twitter, Flickr, Jaiku and blogs. On the way from the quote to the idea that blew me away he convincingly dissed the Attention Economy, touched on the inevitable “are we becoming a hive mind?”, warned against a coming lashback from the powers that be, and threw out such simple and short quotes (which are regardless sound-bites it’ll take days to digest) such as:

Time is a shared space.
The buddylist is the centre of the universe.
Productivity is second to connectivity.

The simple idea that blew me away, not because it was so innovative but rather because it accurately describes a feeling no one I know has ever articulated but I and many have felt was that social apps are giving us back an age-old tribal awareness. We’re becoming like cavemen who are simultaneously scanning the horizon for signs of prey, cleaning a skin, and chatting the whole time. What and how everyone is doing is becoming priority number one.

Later in the day Stowe held a Micropresentation on “Entrepreneuritis” which stuck with me, due to the not necessarily thought-provoking but absolutely hilarious quote: “We don’t need to do the right thing because we can do the wrong thing reeeeally well.” Sound familiar?

I’m afraid to say I was so flashed by Stowe and exhausted by my thoughts that I listened to but didn’t retain almost any of “Attention: On the Near Future of Marketing” by Marko Ahtisaari , ex Director of Design at Nokia, who’s started Blyk, a free mobile network aimed at 16-24 year olds. Everything’s got to be paid for somehow, so of course it’s free + advertising, but with interesting ideas about allowing the kiddies to choose which ads they want to receive when. I’m sure the talk was exciting (and his all white suit is the fashion hit of the whole conference) but I just didn’t have the brain-space to absorb any more.

Originally published at mattbalara.com

Reboot 9/Day 1: A Few Visual Impressions

Like any good geek with an overdeveloped need to present myself and my experiences as if anyone was interested, I carried a camera around all day and saw a few things worth looking at.

Want one.Must. Have. This. Shirt.

This is how gorgeous the weather was today. If you weren’t here, you can go off and be jealous now. Go on.

Reboot Casualty #1This guy and his neighbour did what I desperately wanted to after a vastly insufficient amount of sleep last night, a skull stretching amount of ideas and info and plenty of skin bakin’ rays.

There are of course many many more (556 at last count), from myself and many others.

Originally published at mattbalara.com

Reboot 9/Day 1: Happiness & 20 Seconds

Waiting on trains doesn’t make for happiness. Getting in the wrong train when it comes doesn’t either. Does hearing half a lecture which might have otherwise been interesting make happiness? Nope. Sitting on the grass in the sun at lunch comes far closer, but hell, a wet ass and a not particularly tasty sandwich cancels out a good portion of sunlight.

Good thing that the first lecture I managed to see completely was “Happiness” by the Chief Happiness Officer himself, Alexander Kjerulf. A lecture about happiness shouldn’t have an “unfortunately”, but unfortunately this one did. I had thought—since it’s usually Alexander’s subject—that his lecture would be about encouraging and achieving happiness at work. Being someone who’s in the process of rethinking the way 150 people work with one another and for their clients, I figured there’d be a lot I could take home from such a lecture. Here it is: ‘unfortunately’ it would be better described as What is Happiness?, or, as Buddhist since 1998, I’d describe it as Buddhism for Beginners. What I did take away was this quote from Aristotle:

Happiness is something final and complete in itself, as being the aim and end of all practical activities whatever …. Happiness then we define as the active exercise of the mind in conformity with perfect goodness or virtue.

Much more entertaining and potentially useful were the “Micropresentations” which followed. Seven presenters, each has 15 slides and 20 seconds per slide. It was exhilirating and often hilarious, but amazing how wildly the presentations differed, not only in subjects but, more interestingly, in effectiveness. For example, Leisa Reichelt’s “Ambient Intimacy” flowed with humour and intelligence as if she’d done this every day, while others stumbled to complete each slide in time (no names, I’m not out to embarrass anyone who failed as dramatically as I probably would) and brought very little across. Note to myself and colleagues who present: we need to do this once a week. If you can not only survive but also communicate in such a form, you’re a Powerpoint God.

Conference scheduling is always chaos, so I missed a good deal of Matt Jones’ presentation about Dopplr, so I’m off to see if I can find him for a chat and a beta invite. And someone said there’s cake…

Originally published at mattbalara.com

Reboot 9 Day 1: Less Than a Good Start

Getting up at 5:30 is never a good thing, but when you’re excited about a couple of days away from work, excited by the weather conditions in Copenhagen (26° today) and excited just to be doing something different, it makes getting up easier.

A quick nap in the plane, a quick train to my friend’s place in the north of Copenhagen, dropped off my stuff. So far so good. Everywhere I’m reminded of what a high regard for design the Danes have—hell, even their throwaway newspapers are beautiful.

So, what do you do on a beautiful day in Denmark when you’ve got 30 minutes to get to the conference? Get on the wrong bloody train in the wrong bloody direction would be my suggestion. I’ll spare you the irritating details, but I’m now in the lunch break having missed one and a half talks. Caught a little Jon Husband and his thoughts on how communication changes are changing hierarchies—interesting, but technical problems (sound and projection died suddenly in the middle) and the shortness of the talk made it just enough to give me something to start thinking about later. Lasting image however: the generations of change chart showing how human communication has changed over the 1700 generations since modern man emerged.

Originally published at mattbalara.com

The Real Future of Shopping

Loyal readers are already aware of the OTTO Store and my part in creating it. In a past post I questioned whether this is the future of shopping or not, but left the question unanswered. Well, the answer’s simple. No. It’s not. What is the future of shopping? Step right this way and I’ll explain it all to you.

Hah! Do you really think I’m arrogant enough to believe that I can predict the future of such a fast moving market? Forget about it. I have, however, been thinking about the subject quite a bit during this project, and I can certainly share my thoughts and guesses as to where the market could be going.

For anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, this is the OTTO Store:

The OTTO Store is an application (i.e. it doesn’t run in a browser) which the user downloads and installs locally. For the purpose of catalog downloads and the order process, it’s connected to the net, but otherwise everything you see runs locally. The OTTO Store was and is for us in the Studios a job, which means the basic idea (an e-commerce app which runs in Vista) was defined before we started. Although we asked ourselves early in the process if it couldn’t all be done better/faster/the same in Flash, it was and remains an irrelevant question. It was simply a Vista project. This made it possible for us to learn a hell of a lot, and, considering how unavoidable any new Windows release is in the long-term, we earned some rather valuable competence, making us one of very few agencies in Germany who can pull something like this off. And for those of you who’ve been following my articles about the Store and are beginning to get sick of it, I promise I won’t be writing any more about it for a while after this.

So, is the OTTO Store really the “next generation of internet shopping” that the marketing says it is?

Yes?

Well, it’s certainly a step in the right direction. “In browser” internet shopping in Otto’s market looks like Eddie Bauer, Gap or Abercrobie & Fitch (when did they go soft-porn?). Sites like these — and almost all of the internet to be honest — are essentially clickable books. Read from top to bottom, typography and photos, turn the page. Yes it’s sometimes non-linear, and books certainly can’t be clicked, but essentially a web page is exactly that — just another page.

A page has no “here”, which is to say, it’s about as unimmersive as it gets. A page can inform, and a page can inspire, but a page can’t give the user a feeling of having been somewhere and experienced something, which the OTTO Store can and does. This is definitely the most interesting difference between the OTTO Store and the Web we’re all used to.

No?

Regardless of what’s cool about it, the objections are simply too many to crown the Store the future of shopping.

Imagine this idea really takes off, and every company that has a web store today wants an immersive Vista Store tomorrow. I’d have to download and install OTTO, Amazon, and every other store where I shop online. Every app would be a closed environment, with it’s own look, sounds, and more importantly, interface, which means I’d have to learn how to buy the junk I want all over again for every store.

I’ve also seen comments that the OTTO Store can’t be a long-term success because it’s not “open” enough. The web is a pretty open system. Any user can jump from any web site to any other any time, and they don’t need anything special in order to look at (and buy at) any site other than freely available browser software. So the web is just a medium — like 3D space in the real world — in which companies can set up shop. The openness of the web and the 3D interface of real life is reflected better by Second Life (although the user experience is still pretty dismal) which provides an open and theoretically unlimited space which an company or individual ca buy into and present themselves and their goods. By contrast, the OTTO Store is like being locked in a room full of OTTO products, and not being able to leave, which is not likely to be that big a success with consumers in the long-term.

Maybe.

Do I think every shop that wants to sell online is going to be building software for Vista this year to do just that? Nope. Is the OTTO Store an interesting and important step in the right direction? Sure. And I can’t help but being surprised by and proud of OTTO, a relatively conservative company, for taking such a bold step in an uncharted direction. It may not be the future of shopping, but OTTO has shown what an online shopping experience can be like if you put user experience first.

Originally published at mattbalara.com