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Well – that serves me right. If you requested a Gist beta invite, be patient. I’m grinding through my inbox and you’ll have your invite by tomorrow at the latest. Thanks everyone who requested one, especially for all the kind feedback on the blog.
But that’s not what I’m thinking about this morning. Last week I read an intro O’Reilly book to HCI called Designing Gestural Interfaces: Touchscreens and Interactive Devices. It was ok, but one of the insights – that the public restroom has become a test bed for gestural interface technology – really stuck with me.
I found myself in a restrooms at DIA last night before I got in my car for the hour long drive home. I generally hate public restrooms as my OCD kicks into high gear around everyone’s germs. I no longer think that bad things are going to happen to me if I don’t touch every street sign on a walk, nor do I get stuck in my house in the morning because I have to do everything in multiple of three’s (and – if I blow it, then nines, and, if I blow it then 27’s, ugh – yuck.) However, I still dislike the idea of the public restroom. But sometimes you’ve just gotta go.
It was pretty late at night and I found myself in a recently cleaned and completely empty restroom at one end of Level 6 at DIA. I decided to perform an experiment – could I go about my business without touching a single thing other than myself or my clothes. I like to wash my hands before I go to the bathroom (You don’t? Think about it for five seconds. You’ve been shaking hands and touching things all day? C’mon.) The soap dispenser spit out soap after I put my hands under it. The sink automatically turned on when I put my hands under it (I had to move them around a little.) I walked up to the toilet, did my thing, and walked away to the sound of a toilet flushing. Back to the sink for a redo of the previous drill. I wandered over to the towel dispenser which automatically dispensed some towels when I waved my hands under it.
The only think I had to touch was the door. Even that seems easy to solve – automatic opening and closing doors have been around forever. None of the gestures I did were particular complex and – as I think about it – all were pretty obvious.
Life is a laboratory. Don’t forget to always be exploring and experimenting.
Ever type that into a pop up box on your computer when installing software? If not, you’ve never installed anything from Microsoft (or many other companies) – at least not legally.
This morning I was copied on an email from my partner Ryan McIntyre to a company we are talking to about funding that said:
“I use Pro Tools and other pro audio software regularly and since the SW is quite expensive, the SW vendors go to great lengths to use copy-protection, and most audio plugins and applications (and there are dozens) have some sort of authorization code scheme, ranging from friendly to downright byzantine. It drives me nuts, but my constant exposure to it means I’ve formed some opinions about what is “easy” when it comes to entering authorization codes. The easiest plug-ins (authorization-wise) in the audio world use alphabetical codes broken up into strings of words, so instead of the longs strings of numbers, you get long strings of words, which are much easier for a human to enter without a mistake. A couple code examples might be:
You get the idea. I’m assuming third-part auth-gen packages must exist to generate codes like these that give you a big enough address space yet also make guessing authorizations relatively difficult. And that you could relatively easily change your process at the manufacturer for associating MAC addresses with device IDs.”
I prefer auth-codes that are haikus. I wonder if there’s a patent on this?
Wow – Operating System Interface Design Between 1981-2009 is awesome (thanks Dave). It is a screenshot from every major graphical OS since the Xerox Alto. Some old favorites of mine include the Apple Lisa (1983), the Amiga Workbench (1985), Geos (1986), NeXTSTEP (1989), and OS/2 2.0 (1992). At some point in time I had a computer that ran these and/or installed them on a computer of mine.
I weigh 209.4 this morning. That’s down from 220 when I Declared A Jihad on My Weight on 10/27/08 although it doesn’t look like I’ll make my Anti-Charity goal of 200 by 1/31/09 (more on that in a post on 2/1/09).
I was thinking about my weight this morning as I entered it into the online system at GoWear. I thought about it again when I entered it into Gyminee. And then into Daytum. I’m going for a run in a little while so I’ll enter it again into TrainingPeaks.
Here’s what I’m doing:
- Go to the appropriate web site.
- Choose the appropriate place to enter the data.
- Type 209.4 and press return.
Four times. Every day. Pretty ridiculous. If you reduce the data to its core elements, they are:
- Web site id [GoWear, Gyminee, Daytum, TrainingPeaks]
- User Id (almost always bfeld)
- Timestamp (or two fields – date, time) – automatically generated by my computer
The only actual piece of data that I need to measure is weight. I measure this by standing on a scale each morning. The scale is a fancy one – it cost about $100, looks pretty, and has a bunch of extra things I don’t look at such as BMI. I have an identical scale in my house in Keystone (although the battery is dead and needs to be replaced.)
Some day, in the future, I’ll be able to step on the scale. And that will be it. My weight will automatically go into whatever online systems I want it to. I won’t have to do anything else.
Of course, one of the assumptions is that my scale(s) are “network compatible”. While you may joke that this is the age old “connect my refrigerator to the Internet problem” (and it is), I think it’s finally time for this to happen. As broadband and wifi become increasing ubiquitous and inexpensive, there is no reason that any electronic devices shouldn’t be IP connected, in the same way that microprocessors are now everywhere and pretty much everything has a clock in it (even if some of them still blink 12:00.)
So, accept this assumption. Then, I’m really only taking about a “Brad-centric” data payload. While I’ll have a lot more data than simply weight that I might want in my payload, let’s start with the simple case (weight). Right now, we are living in a system-centric world where data is linked first to a system and then a user. Specifically, you have to operate in the context of the system to create data for a user.
Why not flip this? Make things user-centric. I enter my data (or a machine / device collects my data.) I can configure my data inputs to feed data into “my data store” (which should live on the web / in the cloud). Then, systems can grab data from my data store automatically. All I have to do is “wire them up” which is a UI problem that – if someone is forward thinking enough – could also be solved with a single horizontal system that everyone adopts.
Right now there is a huge amount of activity around the inverse of this problem – taking widely diffuse data and re-aggregating it around a single user id. This deals with today’s current reality of how data is generated (system-centric) but doesn’t feel sustainable to me as user-generated data continues to proliferate geometrically.
Enough. As I said in my tweet earlier today, “thinking about data. thinking about running. thinking about thinking.” Time to go run and generate some more data.
Every male tech nerd (and some female tech nerds) that I’ve known has at one time or another has fantasized about a robot bringing him (or her) a beer from the refrigerator. Thanks to my friends at iRobot that’s now possible.
Ok – that’s a Pepsi. But it could have been a beer. The future is closer than you think.