PlanZ and Text 2 Folder - the development from Personal Project Planner

Personal Project Planner (PPP)  was a research PIM prototype. It created a folder structure through writing a plan of a project in a word processor. Every item from a list turned into an appropriate (sub)folder based on bullets nesting. It also allowed having additional text under bullets, writing email form it, link web content, etc. It basically let user focus on the project steps, while the hierarchy of folders followed.

If you want to try PPP, it is available for downloading and installing on the Windows platforms as PlanZ. It is available here.

A (way way) less sophisticated software T2F allows to create a structure of multiple nested sub-folders by writing a text file and running the program.

I know, I know. It's just a simple 'mkdir -p' (Linux) or 'md' (Windows) in front of every line behind a fancy button :). And it doesn't save a lot of  typing either. Although it might come in handy sometimes.

DIY vivarium / terrarium (for my tortoises)

A while ago I made this terrarium which is sturdy, lightweight, nice looking (personal opinion) and still cheap to build (I spent cca. 100€). It wasn't hard to build either, for someone with some experience.

Dimensions of this terrarium are 100x40x40cm. Rear and lower plates are made of 12mm waterproof plywood. While the top and sides are made of 6mm waterproof plywood. The cover is made of 4mm plexiglass. The dimensions of the terrarium and used materials can and should be changed to suit needs of future inhabitants. 

The aims were: the final product should be reasonable lightweight, materials should be of good quality and animals (and people) friendly, while still be reasonable cheap.

Continue reading "DIY vivarium / terrarium (for my tortoises)"

Taps 7 - a clean design with two coloured lines

Another one in the Tap series. I once wrote about the tap with hidden cold/hot water signs. The most probable reason seamed to be the clean design. I found a similar tap with temperature signs on the handle itself which looks very neat.

See other taps' posts in the series:

Vending machines - how their interfaces change over time

Vending machines are here to stay (at least the food and drinks ones). People use them, even if their interfaces are miserable. Similar to copiers, microwave ovens, etc. We got rid of at least group of badly designed interfaces - VCR's :).

There are two groups of vending machine (keep in mind food and drinks) interfaces:

  • 1. interface that maps the product with the button

    One example is Guus Baggermans design


    Another example is IDEO's design

  • 2. interface that expects random combination of buttons to spit a desired product

    IMG_5104.JPG IMG_5106.JPG
    IMG_5108.JPG IMG_5114.JPG

The REAL question is why the second group of interfaces STILL EXIST :( (bare in mind that vending machines from the first groups were available in 1952!!!)?

Innovation does not stop here though (together with stupidity). Let's see some examples

  • Vending machines recognize age & sex and recommend beverages

    "The vending machines recommend beverages after physical attributes of customers are picked up by sensors which allow the machines determine age, sex and other attributes, before offering a number of suggestions. 

    A male consumer, according to Nikkei (subscription), may be shown images of canned coffee due to customer research, which will be displayed on the 47 inch touchscreen monitor before reverting to a normal vending machine display."

    I might be missing something. Why would machine need to recognize sex and age. I don't drink coffee and would have to wait to get to the normal display??!!? Is it still possible for me to buy a drink for my wife? Are we really that stupid to not be able to decide what we want to drink? What happens if I show up with my children there?

    And I bet the tripled sales have nothing to do with a HUGE interactive and funny touchscreen display :)

  • Biometric vending machine

    "Next Generation Vending and Food Service is experimenting with biometric vending machines that would allow a user to tie a credit card to their thumbprint."

    Did they ever try to log in on the laptop with a finger? Is fingerprint really the best way

Cost/benefit paradigm or approach to things

I met a person who uses a voice recognition software on a daily basis (the software is called Dragon if anyone is interested). This person avoids typing, because of a severe musculoskeletal disorder.  I see all the possible usages of such software and importance of it for certain disabilities. I just never saw a real life example or met someone who would invest so much time and effort to train voice recognition and then spend "ages" to get something written (as she described it).

It all ends up to cost/benefit relation. Evaluating spent time (cost) and weighting gain (benefit). If gain is considerable, it is worth investing time. If gain is not so considerable, then it is not worth doing it.

The same happens in Personal Information Management. Some people don't want to spend time on filing/categorizing email, files they download in a dump area, etc. They don't see any profit in getting things categorized. Some do see a gain but "don't have time for doing it". However, when for example a desktop gets cluttered so any work cannot be done, the invested time in getting things out of the way pays off and people do it (either filing everything away or deleting them). Or when struggling to find a document among 1000 of other files in a folder where our browser stores files (and we don't remember name to search for it, because we didn't name the document), the time invested in cleaning the folder in that particular moment pays off. On the other hand, some people file documents all the time, as they consider that spent time for doing it is paying off.

I was chatting with colleagues about online user agreements. There are many reasons why people don't read them, even if it affects their privacy. User agreements are long, written in a particular uninteresting law language. But I argued that users take cost/benefit approach. What would user gain reading a few pages of a legal agreement? He would have to spend time, invest effort in understanding the language of lawyers. Is it worth reading it? Not for many of us.

Another example is when people's health is affected. Most of us don't exercise because we don't have time for it, there's a movie on TV, it's raining, etc. Tons of excuses. But if our health is affected and exercising is the way to improve it, we would go and exercise until we get better. When we get better we subconsciously gradually stop exercising. Again, I'm not saying that everyone has such approach. Some people see the gain for themselves in exercising.

However cost/benefit approach cannot be applied to everything. Some things simply need to be done no matter how much time we spend and what we profit with with doing such things. And sometimes people are simply addicted and do things even if there is no gain in doing them.