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Entries from June 1, 2006 - June 30, 2006

Friday
Jun302006

Tour de France 2006: Ullrich, Basso, Mancebo, Beloki Out!

Looks like recent scandals related to the Spanish report "Operation Puerto" have now knocked out Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso, Francisco Mancebo and more...

Operation Puerto: The list (Eurosport)
UCI add names to official list (Eurosport)
Spirit of '98? Surely not (Eurosport)
Basso and Mancebo out of Tour (ProCycling)
Ullrich out of the Tour de France (ProCycling)
More riders suspended: Basso and Mancebo out (Cycling News)
Operation Puerto: Yet Another Doping Scandal (Centripedal Blog)
Black Friday: Basso, Mancebo, Ullrich all withdraw from Tour (TDFBlog)
Doping Scandals Throw Tour de France Into Chaos (NY Times)

Updated Rider Listing (Tour de France site)

One final quote from the Ullrich story to give you an idea how serious this is:

"The only thing I can tell you is that the information is clear enough and didn't leave any doubt."
— T-Mobile PR Luuc Eisenga

I guess this year will be quite interesting indeed.

Looking for the latest Tour 2006 info?

Visit my entry for Tour de France 2006

Thursday
Jun292006

Thoughts on Continuous Partial Attention

This week I came across the podcast Attention: The *Real* Aphrodisiac which challenged me about the Continuous Partial Attention in my own life.

The talk, from the 2006 Emerging Technology Conference, was given by Linda Stone, formerly of Apple and Microsoft. She begins the talk asking questions of the audience about their experiences in an Anywhere, Anytime, Anyplace, Always-On lifestyle:

1. When people talk to me I really pay attention.

2. When people talk to me I pay partial attention so I can be aware of other things coming up (my phone, blackberry, other people, etc.)

3. The way I currently use computer and communications technology improves my quality of life.

4. My quality of life is often compromised by technology.

5. Technology sets me free.

6. Technology enslaves me.

Pretty interesting questions for anyone living with technology.

Linda coined the phrase Continuous Partial Attention back in the 90s, as she saw this new type of lifestyle emerging in the high tech sector.

Continuous Partial Attention is different than multi-tasking, where the motivation is productivity: giving equal attention to many activities.

Continuous Partial Attention's motivation: being a live node on the network, gaining meaning from the network, being ready for new opportunities at any moment.

But there is a problem. In Linda's experience, people of various ages living this way, share with her a desire for strategies to deal with an always on lifestyle. They want ways to deal with the flood, overload, and over-stimulation of being a live node on the network. I love this quote:

"But this always on, anytime, anywhere, anyplace era has has created an artificial sense of constant crisis. The adrenalized fight or flight mechanism kicks in.

It's great when we're being chased by tigers. How many of those 500 emails a day is a tiger? Or are they mostly mice?

Is everything really such an emergency?

Our way of using the current set of technologies would have us believe it is."

24/7 lifestyles are great, until you can't turn off the fire-hose. We need limits, natural cycles and downtime, to deal with ever-increasing demands and noise we need to continuously filter.

Rather than a continuous barrage of information, input and connections, we need time to focus, to find purpose, to understand the meaning and wisdom from the constant noise all around us.

Check out Attention: The *Real* Aphrodisiac — It's well worth the 24 minutes.

Related Links:
The Power Of Focus by Michael Ashby

Sunday
Jun252006

Boston Globe: PDA buffs go back to basics

Custom Moleskine PlannerThis Sunday, the Rohdesign Weblog was featured in the business section of the Boston Globe, in the story PDA buffs go back to basics. The Globe piece discusses back to paper movement Douglas Johnston wrote about in 2005.

Last week I was able to talk at length with Kim-Mai Cutler about my Custom Moleskine Hack, using a Palm, the Palm Tipsheet, the analog movement, and more. It seems I've made the first several paragraphs of the piece:

Web designer Mike Rohde was a certifiable Palm fanatic. He had the original PalmPilot 1000, then a Sony Clié, then a Tungsten E, and several more all the way up to the Zire 72. His monthly newsletter vetting the newest models went out to 10,000 subscribers. But when his PDA turned up missing two months ago, Rohde's quick fix wasn't the latest Treo.

He picked up a notebook and drew a calendar.

"The Palm started to become a creature. It demanded things from me. It demanded me to recharge it every couple days or I'd have to make back ups," he said. "I wanted to see what it would be like if I went to paper."

That sums up my thoughts pretty well. It's compressed from what Kim and I discussed over the phone, as reporters are very limited in the space they have. However, it's quite nice to be featured in the opening with that much copy.

The story also features analog fans Chad Adams of PocketMod, Armand Frasco of Moleskinerie, Merlin Mann of 43 Folders, Douglas Johnston of DIYPlanner. I'm honored to be in such great company.

The only unfortunate detail was the lack of link to my weblog , which I'm working on having added. We'll see how many readers Google and find me from the article.

I'd like to mention for the record that I'm not anti-technology. I use technology every day as a designer with MakaluMedia, who works remotely with international colleagues and clients and I see its value and power.

Neither am I anti-Palm or anti-PDA. I've used a Palm handheld for almost 10 years, and believe these devices are excellent tools. However, In my own life I've found paper made more sense for my personal schedule (work stuff is handled on the Mac).

I hope article challenges readers to consider their tools, whether digital or analog. For me it's less about which tool you choose and much more about making sure that tool suits your needs.

Update 2006-06-26: Thanks to reader Ryan Wolf of Variance Art, who nabbed a copy of the Globe for me!

I've also learned from reader Maureen, that the article appeared on the front page of the Boston Globe (bottom center) of at least some editions... how cool is that?! Here's a black and white scan:

globe-scan.gif

Update 2006-07-01: Looks like the article remained in 5th position on the Globe's Most Emailed Articles with 479 emailings one week after it was featured on Boston.com:

boston-emailed.gif

Thursday
Jun222006

Designing the HoudahSpot Icon

Back in February, I came in contact with Pierre Bernard, a Mac OS X developer in need of an icon design for his search tool, HoudahSpot. Pierre's search tool is really an alternate front-end to the Spotlight engine, offering features such as live queries, manipulations of files within search results and an easy to use interface for searching with complex criteria.

Concepting
Pierre had ideas in mind for the his icon — his signature elephant, a set of binoculars, and sheets of paper. I was selected to offer alternate ideas, refinements and provide design guidance in bringing this icon to life. houdah-sketch-v1.jpgAfter some initial questioning about the application and Pierre's idea, I began as I always do, with pencil sketches in my Miquelrius notebook.

Sketches, Round 1
I felt there needed to be something tying the loose papers, binoculars and the elephant icon together, when I realized that if you were on safari, you would carry papers in a binder.

So, with this idea in mind, I sketched out a a heavy duty leather binder with the Houdah elephant icon embossed on the cover, and binoculars laying on top of the binder. Pages would be coming out at odd angles to suggest chaos often present on a user's machine. I also included a small compass to complete the image.

Sketches, Round 2
houdah-sketch-v2.jpgPierre and I both quite liked the binder concept from the first round, and wanted to refine the idea a little bit more. I sketched out a second round of pencils, exploring variations on sketch 5 and a runner up, to make sure we were going along the right track.

On this set, I moved the binoculars down and right on the binder cover to reveal more of the Houdah elephant character, removed the compass, which felt unnecessary. I then rounded the leather binder's corners and refined the paper positioning to be a little less chaotic. This second round sketch looked quite nice, with pretty good balance and proportions.

Sketches, Round 3
houdah-sketch-v3.jpgPierre had one more experiment to try before settling on the concept — sliding the binoculars off of the right edge of the leather binder, to reveal the entire Houdah elephant character. I created an abbreviated 3rd sketch exploring this idea, though immediately Pierre and I felt it threw the balance of the icon off. The binoculars on an angle, laying on top of the binder were better.

Color Comps v1-3
houdahspot-123.jpgNext up, , move ahead to the Mac, and start building the icon in Fireworks. First, I began in icon 1 with the binder, as I felt this element would hold the icon together. Using a photograph of leather, I modified it in Photoshop and Fireworks as the base texture, adding shade, reflections and seams. You can see I also began exploring documents inside of the binder. In icon 2, the binoculars were built using reference from Leica binoculars. In icon 3, I move to defining the documents in the binder in more detail, widened the binder and corrected the angle and skew of the binoculars.

Final Icons
HoudahSpot-Icons-Final.jpgNext, I brought the final icons from Fireworks into Photoshop, for final tweaks and export to .icns files which Pierre could bundle into HoudahSpot. Pierre wanted to remove the highlight on the left edge of the binder, and other small tweaks I found were made to the icon before final export.

I used the binoculars art from the master application icon file to create a complimentary document icon, using the leather binder texture on the top edge of the document to carry over the look and feel of the main icon to the document icon.

Conclusion
Pierre and I are both very pleased with the final application and document icons. They're warm and inviting, capturing the idea of HoudahSpot well. Yoram Blumberg, a German designer liked the icon quite a bit:

When I stumbled upon HoudahSpot at MacZOT.com my first thought was: «I really love that catchy icon, I don’t care what the app is for — I wanna add that icon to my dock!»

Thanks Yoram! :-)

Special thanks go to Pierre Bernard for choosing to work with me and MakaluMedia on this icon. His help and collaboration through the entire project made the HoudahSpot icon a pleasure to create.

I hope my description of my icon design process is interesting and helpful, especially for developers who are curious what goes into the development of an application and document icon. If you need an icon designed, drop me a line.

If you're interested in exploring an alternative approach to search on your Mac with the power of Spotlight under the hood, give HoudaSpot a try.

Related Links
Designing the endo icon
Kula 1001 Icon
MailDrop 2.0 Icon Story

Wednesday
Jun212006

Digital Creativity Flow & Google

Tonight, after replying to some nice comments from Jana on my recent article Analog Tools Foster Reflection, Creativity and Flow, i decided to head over to Google and figure out how she came across my post.

Jana suggested she was searching on the terms "digital writing" and "creativity" though playing with those terms didn't turn anything up in the first few result pages. So, I played with a few words from the post, starting with "digital creativity flow."

I hit return and bing! Look what Google turned up — the first hit on those 3 keywords!

How did this happen? I mean, I like the post, but how does a little weblog, written by a designer in Milwaukee grab first place on a 3 keyword search? I suppose the text of the post must be part of the reason, but still.

I have known about these kinds of high-level search results from other posts here on the weblog. Try searching Google for yogurt packaging and again a post written in 2004 occupies the 1st spot.

Amazing and nice, but I have no idea how this happened. Mind you I am not complaining whatsoever, but am simply astonished how powerful a blog can be, often without really trying.