November 21, 2007

Amazon launches the Kindle – a portable eBook reader

Filed under: amazon, brand, product design, technology, user experience, Wi-Fi — Warren Hutchinson @ 10:18 am

Amazon’s new eBook device the ‘Kindle’ was released this week.

I find this an interesting one.

It was very well covered yesterday on lots and lots of blogs with pretty much everyone saying it’s rubbish. The 400 or so reviews on the Amazon page are largely negative too, this is an interesting point in itself for Amazon.

Here is a video of the out-of-box experience as captured by Robert Scobble:

The packaging looks okay, quite cute for it to come in a ‘book’.

Here is a video of using it and experiencing some issues

I was watching the Amazon demo thinking things like ‘Wouldn’t it be good if you could look-up words as you read. Oh, it does’, ‘Wouldn’t it be good if it wasn’t based on wi-fi hotspots. Oh, it isn’t.’ And so on…

Featurewise, it’s quite nice. It ticks a few boxes and for this reason Amazon will shift a few I’m sure.

Then I thought about the product design and decided that it’s a lame dog. It has some weird, flimsy, asymmetrical form that looks a little like James Bond’s underwater Lotus Esprit.. A little 80s.


Lotus Esprit

The interaction looks far too complicated and it smacks of ‘get it to market quick’. It could have been soooooo much better, so much more desirable, so much easier to use. Also it seems that the interaction itself is awkward, scrolling up and down aligning a little cursor with menu commands rather than selecting them.

However I am a fan of the electronic paper screen, it’s just a shame it couldn’t be tough screen, but then that would defeat the point right?

But this isn’t the problem I se with this device.

My main reasons this won’t be the ‘next big thing’

  • People love books. A bookshelf says a million things about its owner and people love the tactility of paper, the romance of curling up under a reading lamp in a comfy chair and losing themselves.

    The books we read represent us in some way, they have ‘self-expressive benefits’ to quote ‘Aaker’. To have read, own and display works by Shakespeare, Brontë and Dickens says something about the individual. The collection of books one has says something about the owner. Why else would we all have bookshelves? Okay, so they are practical, but they could easily be hidden.

    The same goes for newspapers. It brands an individual to be seen reading the FT, The Independent, The Guardian, The Sun, The Daily Mirror.

  • It has DRM and apparently spies on you . Has Amazon learned nothing? You can’t ‘lend’ books. PEOPLE LOVE LENDING BOOKS!
  • The product design sucks and the interaction is a little fussy. Before iPod, listening to music, changing track, albums and artists etc was a little less-than-slick. iPod made it slick. The Kindle flashes as you do things. HOW ANNOYING! This is not slick. It’s slow.

    You have to pay for blogs if you download them but can browse them in the web browser for free. Weird.

  • People don’t consume books like they do music. With music you flit between things. The Kindle can’t ‘do an iPod’ which changed the way we listened to music. It broke the CD model. The Kindle has nothing to break, no stranglehold to release.
  • People don’t want another device in their bag. “Keys check, wallet check, phone check, blackberry check, laptop check, kindle…? Sod it I have my phone/blackberry/laptop”
  • The name Kindle is rubbish.

It’s exciting because:

  • It’s a very cheap mobile bookshop
  • The screen is a great step forward
  • It has the potential to change the way [some] people read

Sure some will fly of the shelves, but at $400 it’s simply too much for £50 man. People will offset the amount of books they read and think it’s not worth it.

It appeal to the niche. The tech geeks, the academics but it won’t light the fire for my younger brother. As one reviewers says:

“If you travel a lot, or require rapid and accurate access to references (as I do), the Kindle is definitely soon to be a necessity. I am a medical student, and I loaded an entire medical library onto the one I’ve been beta testing”

Having said all this, I might get one… For research purposes of course.


November 16, 2007

Kindle me up

Filed under: uncategorized — neildw @ 3:36 pm

e-books a go go with Amazon.

Sounds crap.  I’ve not done much looking into this – indeed I may never look any further.  But.  On the face of it.  An electronic device that let’s you download e-books to it from Amazon.  It’s got wi-fi… Yeaaa.

November 7, 2007

Tricked into sending invites to my contacts

Filed under: poor experience, registration, usability, user experience — Warren Hutchinson @ 10:27 am




I recently set-up an account on Imeem for exploratory and research purposes and the process arrived at that ‘enter you Gmail address and we’ll see if there are any of your contact already n this site’ moments.

Except it wasn’t.

It was one of those ‘We’re being very sneaky and are going to send an invite to each and every one of your 400+ contacts, many of whom are clients that you haven’t spoken to for a while’ moments.


If you received an invite to Imeem on my behalf, I apologise.

I’ll review Imeem later, but they are not in my good books.

November 6, 2007

Social network backlash because we’ve stopped hugging?

Filed under: behaviours, community, emotion, social networks, social web — Warren Hutchinson @ 10:08 am

Whilst eating some toast this morning I caught a report on BBC 1 suggesting that we’re not hugging enough. We’re not extending human contact in the form of hugging kissing and touching and we are failing to receive our RDHI (Recommended Daily Hugging Intake).

(Sorry I can’t find a story to link to on the BBC website).

Psychologists behind the report suggest that we are relying far too heavily on non-human-touch methods of communication such as texting, email and ‘pokes’. Hugging makes you happy.

I’ve been arguing for a while that humans require real, genuine and tangible value when it comes to their relationships with other humans and that social networks as they currently stand, fail to satisfy our long-term human needs because they are limited to facilitate only synthetic relationships.

Look at your Facebook account. How many ‘friends’ do you have?

Are you one of those people who accepts every invitation through fear of offence? Or are you one that only accepts invitations from people they actually, really and still know?

Do you consider tenuous links with colleagues you are simply ‘aware’ of? Or do you keep it focussed down into people you actually know? People you are actually friends with?

Social networks tap into out latent need to belong, to be part of a community and to be recognised. They provide us with recognition and allow us to say “I am here and I belong”.

It’s a Maslow thing.


But over a long period of time social networks will fail to deliver real value in the form of tangible, off-line and physical benefit unless they evolve into real space. Doing something, actually being there together, in real terms.

A search on the BBC website reveals this:

A hug is, first of all, a form of non-verbal communication. It brings people together in a feeling of mutual love, comfort and safety. Research suggests that everyone needs physical contact to survive, especially infants. Hugging is an act of giving and receiving support, moral and physical, and love

BBC – Guide to Hugging

Loving the ‘Huggers’, ‘Huger’ and ‘Hugee’ references there.

Great digital ‘start-ups’ such as Facebook, MySpace and Last.FM could just be limited by their lack of real physical space and I wonder if this is something they’ll need to evolve in order to survive?

It’s all very well having ‘friends’ on these sites and receiving witty pokes, funwall messages and music recommendations, but I can’t engage with them on a “so how are you doing?” basis. I can’t really and truly care.

I personally have noticed some of my more distant friendships relying on Facebook to stay in touch. We poke, message and send things to each other whereas before we’d phone.

That’s rubbish. I’m changing it. By using Facebook to message each other we’re saying that we don’t really care.

I’ve also observed some friends and family resolving sticky issues via email, text or by writing a message to someone’s Facebook inbox. How sad is that? Complete avoidance of true, emotional disscusion.

What is that doing to society?

I guess in the old days we used to write letters but I don’t consider that the same thing. Letters unlike email/text etc, take time. They take effort and flow from the end of your pen in an emotional, stream of consciousness kind of way.

Email is synthetic, easy and impersonal.

We all know that teenagers don’t use it.

Emoticons were invented to try and bridge this emotionless communication.

🙂 😦 😡 ]:-) :p :s =|

(My blog tool has probably ’emoticonned’ some of those).

I remember back in 1996, when I started using IRC (internet Relay Chat) in the form of Foothills and Resort, we communicated using a telnet window using text only using the ’emote’ command to show emotion.

Warren> Emote is happy.

‘Warren is happy.’

Fundamentally, even though the technology has evolved the need hasn’t changed and the need hasn’t be fulfilled.

When we are born and as babies we learn primitive methods of communication such as touch and hugging. But as we progress to our teenage years the level of non-family touch drops away considerably.

I don’t know about you but on a personal level I’m getting bored of social networks. On a professional level I’m still enjoying the challenges of seeding a community and designing tools for them, but I have to say, I’m not really seeing any great value.

I could talk about Twitter here, but that’s for another day. this post is already too long, if you got this far, well done and thanks.

As I write this post I can’t help but laugh at the fact that next to me on the train into London, there is a couple smooching, kissing ad making lip-smaking noises, cooing and warbling together like teenagers.

They are in their late thirties and it’s irritating the hell out of me!



Image credits: Dina_Mehta

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November 5, 2007

iPhone zoomy web or taylored mobile web?

Filed under: uncategorized — Tags: — danielharris @ 3:23 pm

I bumped into a friend last week. He runs a company that designs and builds online promos and games.

“Do much mobile stuff?” I said.
He shrugged his shoulders. “nah – there’s no point anymore…” at which point he produced a gleamingly hacked iPhone “…when you can have full internet.”
He began to wildly zoom and drag and twist an inderciphiferble webpage, until I could see a number of links which were now completely out of context.

It’s would be bizarre product design if it weren’t for our preconceptions of the web. And if this attitude is widely held, it could restrain the development of contextual web apps.

So its straw poll time. Which camp are you in?

1. Full mobile internet, no conversion to mobile screens, thanks – let me see what i’m used to on the desktop
2. Taylored mobile internet – allowing me to have a contextual mobile web experience, with the least number of clicks drags and zooms

answers below please!

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