The Internet of Things

An esteemed colleague sent an email about the internet of things. Here’s what I think.

http://www.wowjpn.com/1819

Chindōgu (珍道具) is the Japanese art of inventing ingenious everyday gadgets that, on the face of it, seem like an ideal solution to a particular problem.
However, chindōgu has a distinctive feature: anyone actually attempting to use one of these inventions would find that it causes so many new problems, or such significant social embarrassment, that effectively it has no utility whatsoever.

At length:

We’re back to postwar borax America, and 1970s/80s Japan – comfort and bounty for select areas of the Bay Area and a relentless supply of brogrammers telling themselves that they’ve invented the next post-it. Invent it and they will come! What, who doesn’t want a NFC-nail-file-cum-quantified-self-inator?

It’s internet-of-things and VR and AR for the sake of it. Have a control-alt-delete wand or a clear vynil hat that allows you to smoke while swimming, but now with GPRS and LTE. It’s funny, in a cringeworthy The Office way. While the enmusculated nootropic-toting “brahs” of the valley are busy punching code into boiled eggs that tell your fridge when they’re off, the future is a scene reminiscent of Mugatu from Zoolander pitchedly yelling how he invented a the piano-key neck tie, or worse, a giant internet of things, bluetooth-enabled e-bubble bursting as the likes of Woolies and Coles realise all those talking fridges and spin dryers with wifi that feed your robot dog are actually a bunch of overmarketed gimmicks floated to the already bloated consumer; Fox quietly abandons its stance that it’s a “billion dollar industry” and we watch as the industry shits itself.

Of course, consultancies – such as the one I work at – tend to do well out of such affairs, so $bring it.

There’s a trend of “no interface”: Microsoft is using it’s heavy, embarrassing and clunky headgear as a way to force plain old windows into your face while you’re making toast ( page 32 of the PDF ). That’s not augmented reality in any way at all – it’s obscuring reality by shoving Microsoft and it’s banal 21st century clippy into your breakfast cereal.

“Oh it looks like you’re making toast, would you like some help with that?” Christ. It’s not long before someone lashes out in frustration at a poorly timed notification and crowns their daughter in the eye.

This is a shame. Augmented reality shouldn’t be taking what’s on the screen and making it a bit translucent and waft around your face like an irritating insect. AR, like technology more generally, works best when it’s not even noticed.

Which brings me back to “no interface” – i’m all for it. But I’ve yet to see it in any of the IOT propaganda. But maybe that was the point?

Also I just bought a Nutribullet to mix up that protein, because my hand-blender was only good, not great. Hello irony you old tart.

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For Fucks Sake

In relation to this: http://m.fastcompany.com/3047872/innovation-agents/inside-marriotts-attempt-to-win-over-millennials?utm_source=facebook

“In Phoenix, Arizona, the Marriott team came up with Craft+Culture, an artisanal cheese-and-charcuterie restaurant with a selection of local craft beers and wines.”

“But millennials are also driven by a desire to have a rich, meaningful experience when they travel, get an authentic taste of the local culture, and gather unique stories to share upon their return”

“Lindlbauer is leading a charge to transform Marriott into a hip, sexy brand that will appeal to its next generation of guests”

Reading between the lines, Marriott have realised that young people like to go away, prance around on beaches, and have sex with each other. An STI is as much a badge of honour as it is a lifelong curse, because “you’re not a man till you’ve had crabs.” This was summed up perfectly in this article. Watch Made in Chelsea and cringe.

That’s who this is targeted at.

By young people they mean the entitled children of wealthy probably-white folks who once spent a night in a dull-as-dishwater Marriott hotel and – possibly – quietly and embarrassedly did the nasty and conceived them, followed by a morning of self-satisfied golf or a luncheon, and a pleasant drive in the Cadillac back to whencever magnolia-vanilla blanditude they came.

Young people who give a shit about artisanal this and organic that for the sake of keeping up appearances and getting all Kardashian-judgy on their peers, beedily coveting each others swarovski tat at whatever “fashion and arts” contribu-wank their LinkedIn contact from six months ago gushed on them (probably with an englittered flyer using the words “exclusive” “venue” and “fundraiser”), followed by a night in an overpriced nightclub where the cheapest drink is a bottle of Cuervo Bianco at £350 a pop.

Young people who once bummed out in india and might have stepped over some impoverished child on the streets of Mumbai only to go back home and flaunt their instagram at their friends about how charitable they are and what a paragon of personal excellence their trip to the Ganges turned them into, swiftly followed without trace of irony an anecdote about how much vodka they drank that same night and how the “locals just don’t get alcohol.”

But Greg, don’t you want to be these people!? I’ve seen you drink tequila, and you’ve walked past a gym!

Yep. But the thing that I find interesting about this is that Marriott try and dress it up as something that it isn’t. I’ve been to parties just like that and left feeling gross: not just because of quality of the tequila, not because I couldn’t afford the tequila in the first place, or didn’t like that oligarch’s daughters couture, or that the DJ (the only man of colour in the venue, coincidentally) was average (but then the richness of Brixton’s musical scene would have been utterly wasted at that night, so who could blame him?), but because it was a lie. 

It’s rich people being rich people, at whatever age.

These venues might be perfectly nice for a holiday, and – maybe – affordable, you know, for you and me. But that’s not their point. Their point is so that people talk about them, get arrested in them, or perform some other act of boring infamy, following whatever function they can contrive into any one of those given spaces, which will try and eke out a little kudos for the brand with young ‘uns.

And the Marriott know that, and they know about the internal self-loathing beneath the veneer of La Mer, so they gracefully accept it by putting a picnic on a rooftop and give people brie. The pretence of exposed chipboard and a puppy as “branch manager” – frankly – takes the piss. I hope it shat on the fake astroturf.

I’ve had a bad day. Someone elbowed me. I’m going to book flights to the Lang Kuai Fong Hyatt and beg for an upgrade. I’ve earned it… right 
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Jaffleshutes

A Melbourne company makes good toasties – or Jaffles as they’re colloquially known. They’re thinking to use drones for delivery, thereby achieving a form of hyper-unnecessary industry disruption, the sort of terminology likely to get the juices of any technology-orientated consultant flowing.

So naturally, what does the future hold?

The case is for continued development of targeted surface-to-surface missiles ( “disruption” and “missile” go together like birds of a feather ).

Hear me out.

You could launch a jaffle at supersonic speed and the air resistance should toast it nicely.
The trick would be to slow it down enough before impact-to-face, and naturally not let Americans design the targeting system, else someone else might get an unexpected jaffle. Of course if this kept happening, you’d end up with small pockets of insurgent Jaffelistas, worried that your Jaffle-launching hegemony was getting too big. You’d respond by supplying some of the more aligned Jaffelistas with your equipment, only to find once they’ve eradicated the competition they realise you were only helping them so that they’d be your puppets in the region, and they’re not happy with your negligent supply-chain-economics. They don’t even want Jaffles. They just want brioche, goddammit. And you could give it to them for a snip, but you don’t, because your board thinks that if you do you’re somehow a communist and no better than the Jaffle Terrorists, who Fox News is making a thing about: “White Male killed by un-decellerated Jaffle, all evidence points to Jaffle Terrorism,” forgetting that fifty people died trying to get out of bed this morning. Some brave souls are starting to question the Jaffelistas even existed in the first place, and are pointing fingers at a burgeoning surface-to-surface Jaffle missile industry. But the board doesn’t care, because they’ll be long gone before anything I’ll comes of it, and really we should be investing in Space-launched FroYo, because the Chinese are definately doing that.

And so the cycle continues.

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Esoteric Process

Here’s a conversation I just had with a BA , QA and Developer team.

The Dev team had realised that a media upload had two parts – the upload might finish, but then the backend system needs to translate the uploaded media into a format that everyone can see, and this has some complicated name because it’s a complicated process. If it can’t do that, then the user will not be able to see any uploaded media. 

 

– “So, Experience Designer, what do you think about this user experience problem?”
– “Um, based on what I know, I think X”
– “Oh. Well we think Y”
– “Right, great! Can you explain?”
– “Yeah, because the user needs a warning about [esoteric tech] when [esoteric tech] fails during [humdrum process]”
– “OK, to the user, does [esoteric tech] matter?”
– “No”
– “So is it possible that the [humdrum process] can succeed without the [esoteric tech]?”
– “No”
– “Ok, so X gives the user a notification if [humdrum process] fails”
– “Yes, but Y will tell them about [esoteric process]”
– “But does [esoteric process] matter to the user?”
– “No”
– “OK, so which solution do you think is best?”

long pause

– “We think Y because then the user will know about [esoteric process]”

sigh

– “OK, go for gold”.

 

So here’s the thing: The user probably doesn’t care that the upload functionality has two parts: especially if all uploaded media is junked if the secondary function isn’t successful.

Solution Y involved not only telling the user about a process they’d never heard of failing, but also leaving them with a broken image / media element in the destination the media was meant to be, which then the user would have to delete.

Like being at a restaurant and the waiter saying, “sorry, I couldn’t make your pasta, but here’s my attempt,” and dumping a bunch of inedible burnt sauce on your table. 

There is only value in telling a user if a piece of esoteric tech is failing if they can use that information to fix it. In this instance, and in most online instances where the back-end is unreachable in all but the most minimal ways by the front-end-user, this is redundant. 

 

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