April 30, 2007

AOL and Yahoo Homepages look the same

Filed under: web — Warren Hutchinson @ 4:37 pm

Have you seen the new AOL homepage? It look svery similar to the Yahoo! one.

One wonders how they can get away with this sort of thing. i mean there are design patterns and there is 100% rip-off. It even looks as if the grids are pixel perfect.



Free as in beer, base as in database

Filed under: Freebase, uncategorized, Web 3.0 — Phillie Casablanca @ 10:42 am

Freebase LogoAfter I mentioned Freebase in a previous blog posting, I was contacted by the company and invited to check out their product. This isn’t the first time I’ve been contacted by a company after blogging about them – the guys at Eyejot did as well – so someone out there is reading! Worth bearing in mind if you want to try out something that has invitation-only access.

Anyway, I’ve been busy and the invitation got put on the back burner. I’ve finally had a chance to check it out, and can now share my findings.

Basically the idea behind Freebase is that we can and should sort all the world’s data semantically. Imagine all the Wikipedia data organised by type, (in fact Freebase’s starting point for some topics is data pulled from Wikipedia), where that type and all the related data can be cross-linked with data of a similar nature. Imagine if everyone’s tags were properly organised on every site on the web.

On the surface you get more powerful ways to search and mine data; for example, a search like finding all companies in London in the design industry with 100+ employees would become very straightforward. But the real kicker is when people start developing applications on top of this database. We’ve had mash-ups for a long time, but that’s nothing compared to the potential of this resource.

Freebase has an API open to those who are taking part in the alpha phase, which means those developers can get their hands dirty with this stuff pretty quickly. I think you need to be logged in to see the stuff that’s been built so far (and to be honest it’s not that sensational as the database is still quite young), but the potential is there. Blog about the product and you might get a look in! Or ask me for a demo.

Jim O’Reilly has had a play with Freebase and has some screenshots on his blog posting. Could it become addictive? Perhaps in the same way Wikipedia compelled people to contribute. Whether it can become the starting pistol for Web 3.0….it’s hard to tell. But in the meantime the excitement builds as we move towards beta and (presumably) a fully Open API which can be used by a much bigger community. I shall be watching with interest.

Automatic Birthday Celebration Machine

Filed under: 80/20, ideas — Stephen Hellens @ 10:04 am

Thought about this on Friday after the email about people’s birthdays…

ABCM – Automatic Birthday Celebration Machine

Description: create an automatic birthday present-buying and celebration service.

Using our new found shared birthday Google calendar, create a site that buys a present based on each participant’s interests (profile) and sends it to them. All other users will know about the present (can suggest, modify etc) but the recipient won’t know anything about it till they receive it.

Could even send out a meeting maker request to the unwitting recipient for some random meeting, while all other participants are sent a reminder to do something outrageous to surprise the birthday girl/boy.

Bit of a brain dump here, but I see the potential to have an automatic kitty, that purchases something from e.g. Amazon and gets it delivered to the recipient on the day of the (surprise) meeting. I was thinking as well about Secret Santa – where everyone has to buy something for someone else who is selected randomly. Limit £5.

Or something.

Hope you can make some sense out of this.


Feel free to modify till it makes sense.

Touch sensitive UI for OSX leopard???

Filed under: ideas, innovation, UI — gavinedwardsuk @ 10:01 am

Latest news on the rumor mill is that Apple are working on ‘top-secret’ *cough* iphone style touch screen features across their desktop range. see original article here:.

It raises some interesting questions about what the future of physical inmteraction could be in a desk based environment. Like the article says, i can’t imagine any of us sitting here using a touch screen all day, its just not practical right now, however if Johnathon Ive and his team are working hand in hand with the User Experience Evangelists at Apple (and i was happy when i got architect in my job title) then i’m sure we could start to see some ‘soft’ integration of touch features.

So now all they need to ensure is that i dont my grubby paws all over my monitor straight after a greasy burger king…

80/20 Idea – Human Error

Filed under: 80/20, ideas — jonseyk @ 9:50 am

On a recent trip to SA I was talking to my boyfriends mum who is a director at a very established airline. She told me that although it is not always portrayed in the media 90 something percent of plane crashes happen due to human error.

So, I was thinking why do the systems that are inplace in aircrafts allow for human error? Surely if the percentage of crashes is so high then the systems should be designed/redesigned to ensure that to this no longer happens.

It is an idea i have for “20” time to find a list of crashes that have happened due to “human error” or identify ourselves areas which we think are open to human error and then redesign the cockpit to eliminate any chance of crashes happening because of human error. This could be by putting in warning systems, redesigning buttons etc.

OK so we don’t have a 747 lying around the building so i thought we could use something like Mircosoft flight simulator which apparently has the same controls as real planes. To identify areas where there is potential for human error.

I like this idea because along with learing to fly a plane we could potentialy be doing something that one day may save lives.

Are there any takers with me on this idea?

April 29, 2007

Flock – Get it now!

Filed under: web — Warren Hutchinson @ 8:42 pm

OKay so this isn’t ‘news’ as such, but I noticed that a few of our team are switching to Flock as their browser of choice.

And with good reason, I’ve been using it for a good while now and I thought I’d drop it on Frankandpat by means of sharing.

Flock is called the ‘social browser’ simply because it plugs in nicely with all your usual social networky type activities.

See integration with Flickr and a nice little photo stream bar built in, you can post to your blogs from any web page at the right click of a mouse and it integrates favourites with (Which if you don’t use or if you don’t subscribe to your colleagues bookmarks – I suggest you do) and it has a built in RSS readers that ain’t half-bad.

Oh, and it comes with all the useful Firefox extensions you can shake a hairy stick at.

Gmail on your desktop – Mailplane in Beta

Filed under: beta release, software — Warren Hutchinson @ 10:14 am

Continuing our foray into all things beta, I’ve scored access to Mailplane which is a Mac OSX desktop client for Gmail.

Sure, you can set up Mail to access Gmail, but you lose all the good stuff that Gmail provides such as labels, conversations etc.

Anyway, I’m just starting to play with it, so I’ll let you know what I think later.

April 27, 2007

erm…AOL have done something weird

Filed under: web — Andy Braxton @ 11:36 pm

aol.jpgAOL beta homepage…just spotted it. It looks like Yahoo!, rather a lot.

A fellow designer mentioned to me recently that he thought Yahoo! was bland from a brand point of view. That may be, but at least Yahoo! have originated a visual and interaction style that is essentially their own. From a brand point of view AOL are not differentiating themselves with this offering. The only positive I can glean from it is that they are going some way to establishing design patterns for a portal style homepage. But with the proliferation of rich sites that are around at the moment, are pattern and conventions less relevant and brand and innovation more compelling? What are the reasons for creating something so close to the Yahoo! portal page? AOL? Tell us please!


Filed under: uncategorized — Dunners @ 5:45 pm


Andy takes on Dan and then up steps Warren for a touch of friday afternoon tennis in the big space

Creating an Ideas Culture – Pt 1

Filed under: 80/20, design management, ideas, innovation, team culture, team dynamics — Warren Hutchinson @ 5:03 pm

Our company is currently going through a bit of a change after some fairly heavyweight mergers. Firstly Oyster with Framfab and then Framfab with LBicon. The group is now an 1800 person, multinational full service design agency. It’s essentially a rollup of Oyster, Framfab, LBicon, Lost Boys, Wheel, MetaDesign, Scient, iXL and some bits of Razorfish.

We now have offices in the UK, US, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Italy and China (!). Pretty huge I’d say.

But with this growth there are the inevitable challenges such as knowledge sharing, creative agility, familiarity and moreover team culture and individual identity. Certainly in the London office where I work.

I wrote about the begining of this challenge, here and here.

The team culture has no doubt been impacted which breeds some questions around personal identity and the sense of place an individual has within the whole. On the whole everything is positive, there are just some interesting challenges afoot. there are also some very interesting opportunities afoot in cross-polinating the disciplines from one country to the next as there is so much to learn.

I’ve already been part of a knowledge exchange with out Dutch counterparts at Lost Boys in Amsterdam. Cool bunch they are too.

Anyway, in order to deal with this the London outfit has arranged into ‘ecosystems’ and these groups seek to deliver small group thinking, sharing and agility within a large, well supported network. The are teams of about 60 people grouped around clients with a natural affinity.

Growth brings process as process is required to control the new chaos. Process can all too often equate to bureaucracy and bureaucracy is an innovation killer in my book. So we’re working on ways to reintroduce chaos (a bit anyway), to reinvigorate a mistake-embracing culture where it’s okay to try new things and get it wrong.

This is design. It’s about invention and experimentation.

All this starts with people and my key observation about agency culture after a few years first hand experience is that very talented people join to work on ‘cool’ brands. Those same talented people are used on projects from week to week, month to month so that all the ‘learning’ takes place on-he-job. Yes there are training course and development packages etc.. but that’s all too often structured around a skill-deficit and is rarely about just trying things out.

I don’t like that and I think that it’s wrong. Who has ever been on a course where they say “Just play. make and break stuff, be curious”?

My colleagues at LBi who lead our ecosystem also agree so we are currently introducing an 80/20 culture to our team.

80% on billed client work. 20% making mistakes working on things that excite them.

It’s not new but the reasons for pursuing it are obvious. It is all about creating an innovation culture where people are challenged and encouraged to work on subjects that intrinsically motivate them. To create a sense of ‘play’ in our workplace.

Any professional service company worth its salt has this approach but I haven’t heard of anything similar in a digital design agency. Yes in product design, but not in digital and certainly at none of our competitors.

I’ve always said that our discipline has a lot to learn from other design disciplines, being the new kid on the block and I stick to that.

So. 80/20. How do we make it happen?

Well there are 2 challenges to deal with from the off:

  1. In a culture of 100% billable, creating breathing space for the ’20’ to happen
  2. Finding out what topics individuals should work on and what the prospective projects might be

Firstly we can consider blocking out sometime each week where we switch mode from billed work to private work. I like the idea of this all happening at the same time each week as I think it will create a nice buzz in the team to have everyone on ‘pet projects’ at the same time.

To get started we’re thinking of setting ‘Design Challenges’ to run for a time-boxed period just to introduce the 80/20 way of life. 80% on projects, 20% on other stuff.

We can let this run for a while, enjoy the distraction and nurture our capacity planning to accommodate the new activity.

While we are re-engineering ‘how’ we do things we can be thinking about those ‘pet projects’, what they are, what interests us all as individuals. Some people can team up and start making, trying and developing ‘stuff’. The Design Challenges will help us establish the time slot and be a conduit for developing some personal ideas.

I’m always up for feeling our way towards this by trying things out rather than talking talking talking too much.

We’ll let you know how it goes.

We’ve discussed it and it’s all systems go on our new innovative, mistake embracing, creative, fun, developmental culture.


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