July 10

A survivor has emerged in Jawbone V Fitbit … consumer edition.

According to the Consumerist blog, Jawbone is folding under its consumer wearables division. But Jawbone isn’t going away … they’re moving into more accurate medical-grade devices, possibly to improve data accuracy.

My guess is that these first and second generation trackers are equivalent to the small consumer cell phones and feature phones of the late 90s and early 00s. The medical-grade devices are set to burst onto the scene like the smartphones we all now carry around. Health plans will start paying for devices, and giving discounts for use (there are some pilot programs out there that pay into limited-use accounts) as an everyday thing everyone who can afford health insurance will use.

One to sleep, one to compete.
One to sleep, one to compete.

In the meantime, I’m still wearing two wearables. Partially to participate in challenges against my friends, partially as a check against each other, and partially because I really hate the alarm on the Fitbit more than the alarm on the Jawbone UP (which does wake me up now).

Fitbit, the market is yours to take back from the Apple Watch

(If you design for Apple, stop reading. I don’t want an Apple Watch!) I will ditch the Jawbone forever if you’d just fix your alarm settings from “static” to “smart”. Jawbone UP can be set to wake you at a “good time” in your sleep cycle, rather than at a specific time. Now that they’ve exited the market, find a comparable way to replicate it … without risking a lawsuit, please ….

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June 1

Designing your mobile game to flail: A look at the UX in PokémonGO

Years and years ago, there was a really great Super Bowl ad for a job site called monster.com. The premise was kids dreaming aloud of grown up jobs, but speaking of their dreams in ridiculous terms. The one that resonated most with me at the time was a dead serious tween: “I want to file all day.” Nobody wants to file all day.

And this goes for gamers, too. The equivalent of filing in video games is organizing and maintaining your inventory. Chasing through ridiculous amounts of menus just sucks the enjoyment right out of the game. No gamer is thinking to themselves: “I want to click through menus all day.”

But that is exactly what you do in PokémonGO. Click through unnecessary menus all darn day. It hurts gameplay, and I bet it’s even suppressing recurring player counts.

I’ve been playing PokémonGO on and off since it’s public release. There have been some changes to the “capture” side of the gameplay that are fantastic. Improvements to the “battle” side of the gameplay experience are still lacking, however.

Capture Gameplay Improvements:

  • Sliding Capture Menus
  • Appraisal function on the secondary character screen
  • Buddy System  

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January 31

I’ve been losing FitBits since 1.0

I lost one in September 2010, one in November 2010, and a few more since then. The original “clip” design failed for me … it kept popping off my ample waistline, and didn’t do well clipped to my shirt or bra, either. The hardware’s inability to handle multiple wake ups overnight didn’t do me any good, either.

Fitbits were originally priced around $99, and have mostly gone up in price. And complexity (still no Smart Alarm). And when you add on a new, more comfortable band … the cost goes up even more.

Another one, an Alta this time, has wandered off. We have an idea of where it might be, but it depends on the honesty of everyone else there. More likely it’s on eBay or Craigslist.

My suggestion is this: how about a “lock out” button? You can report your cell phone stolen to your carrier, why not the same for a fitness band? Heck, it’d be a revenue stream to subscribe to a return service; you try to sync a “stolen” subscribed band and you get a reward for returning it. At the very least, a “lock out” of a stolen item will reduce the resale value of stolen goods ….

user-edited Fitbit App screen.
Click the lock to lock it out from synching to a new user profile. Brick it till you get it back.
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January 24

Unsubscribable, that’s what you are …

I now know that all of the Kia dealerships around here share a database, and badly. There are three in the area. My spouse went to one to test drive and pick out a Soul five years ago. A friend went to another to test drive a Soul five years ago, and was treated so badly she bought a Dodge across the street instead. I went to our local Kia to test drive a Soul, and was treated so badly I went back down south to the one my spouse tried a Soul at and bought it there.

Yesterday, I plugged in the address to my GPS and drove 22 miles for an oil change at the original Kia dealership. Fast, friendly service; they did what I wanted, gave a list of “what will need to be dealt with soon but you’re okay for now”. They really reminded me how awesome an experience it is when I need dealer service (otherwise we go down the block to the mechanic we’ve used since the 1990s, even though we now live 22 miles away).

And then I got an email from my local Kia dealership as if they had performed the service. Ugh. I’ve only been to the local dealership the once, because I couldn’t limp the 22 miles to my preferred dealership. Despite all this, and my many requests for them to stop mailing me and calling me, they still think that I’m theirs. Not only that, I can’t unsubscribe from their emails.

Dear Kia and Carfax … fix your marketing engines!

Images below the cut … Continue reading

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November 30

Fixing the Functionality Tree: Pokemon GO

Pokemon GO is one of a new generation of mobile games, tied to the real word using GPS and user-mapped locations for gameplay. Users walk around to find fixed play points, such as Pokestops and Gyms, as well as to find wild Pokemon at random spawn points. Each of these actions are tied to action trees for capturing game resources or reagents as needed.

There are several interlayered game play actions required to play the game, but my main annoyance is this: I can view the Pokemon I’ve “captured” in the game, but I can’t heal or repair them within that screen. I have to chase all the way back out to the main view screen, switch to the Items menu, and then guess how to heal or revive a Pokemon.

If I want to “upgrade” or “evolve”, I have to drop back to the main view screen, select the Pokemon to work with, and then upgrade or evolve the Pokemon.

While I understand that the reagents used in these game play actions are gathered in different ways (repair items are picked up at Pokestops, candy and stardust from capturing wild Pokemon), it doesn’t make sense to me that they have to be accessed in different game play action trees.

Accessing healing and revival through the Items menu allows players to wholesale heal and revive their Pokemon. Tap a Pokemon, heal them up. But players who want to min max their resources are stuck. They can’t see how many hit points a damaged Pokemon has – should they use two twenty point potions, or one fifty point potion?

Allowing a player to access potions from the Pokemon primary character screen would make it easier to manage resources. See a Pokemon’s hit points, select a healing potion, and apply with ease. You don’t have to take away the ability to mass-heal groups of Pokemon for players who choose to play that way; just allow for more precise gameplay for us min-maxers.

More detailed gameplay is under the cut, if you want to know more about how the game works.

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October 23

Confessions of a Convention Junkie

When I met my spouse a few years ago, we had a grand first date, geeking out about things we liked in common, planning our first nerdcation together soon after. Our destination: a technical conference (SIGGRAPH). Neither of us actually worked in the industry, but liked it enough to want to spend time learning more about all the cool math that went into making movies.

I sat in on a talk from WETA (the hoopy froods behind the Lord Of The Rings movies), bought a Mars rover shirt at the SGI booth, went to a Digital Domain party, and generally had a nerdy good time with the folks in charge of the green pixels.

I still go to conventions for fun and learning. 🙂 It’s as expensive as a semester of college (sometimes), but shorter and more fun – and it’s easier to sort out who is interested in what you’re interested in.

This month, I got a double whammy, working one convention, then dropping in on another for helping out with the first. The topic, to my surprise, was in my specialty cloud — Information Development and Process Analysis, and touched a bit on my recent work as a Product Developer. I’m sure the guy running the day would have been surprised I call it ID/PA/PD, but it’s neat to see how my skills transfer to the marketing industry.

Pro tip: Take a multi-port charger with you and you’ll make a ton of new friends … also a few safety pins, some extra socks, and plenty of business cards. I dusted off my freelance cards from 8 years ago and used them to make new friends… I designed them with plenty of room to write on so new friends would remember why we need to talk later.

Looking forward to nerding out as I strike out on my own, finding more conventions to talk about making things work for people better with fellow info geeks. 🙂

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October 5

Re-preciated terms … “Lost my marbles”

The etymology and meanings of phrases in any language continues to fascinate me. Where words and phrases came from, what they used to mean, what they still mean …

I heard an interview on NPR recently where the speakers mentioned our current use of English names and terms such as “horsepower” for engines and “candlepower” for lights. We still “film” or “video” on our smartphones as well, instead of “record” or “capture” … “capture” seems to have attached itself to the idea of motion capture instead.

And some words have taken on additional meanings – a “handle” is still something you grab something by, but it’s also a chosen name for online chat. A “honeypot” is both a place to store bee juice and attract black hat traffic.

But as some words fade out of use in negative ways, such as “retard” (soon, please) and “lost my marbles” … will they come back to mean something completely different?

Some neat new-ish technology popped up in an old reading list of mine the other day: HUGE marbles designed to capture visible light and convert it to electricity. I envision buildings with marble roofs, and ground quakes causing the arrays to shift off line. “Why’d the power go out?” “Welp, we lost our marbles again …”

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October 2

Let me tell you WHY I’m unsubscribing …

I’ve been trying to clear out my inbox lately. I get a lot of emails, mostly by choice, but some emails I don’t want to see any more (and yet some still keep coming ).

It’s gotten a lot easier to get off of email lists these days, as email providers are more strict about blacklisting flagged spammers. A simple unsubscribe is appreciated, but being able to tell someone why I’m unsubscribing can be helpful, too.

There’s a golden opportunity to gather data at that point. Maybe emails are too frequent and we’d appreciate a digest option. Maybe emails are too ad-laden, or we’ve changed jobs, lives, focus.

But most email lists and services don’t seem to care. I canceled audible (never used the credits was an option I took). I canceled Patreon (changing focus, and it let me leave a nice note I hope the artist got). I’d estimate, though, that at least 90% of the email lists (mostly marketing, industry, and home-improvement) simply had an unsubscribe option … without a feedback option.

Sure, I could write an email, but I’m your lazy user. I might not think of it. But if you asked me … you never know what might come out that might help!

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September 27

Easter Eggs of a bygone era

I’ve been thinking of Easter Eggs I miss lately. Versions of software I’ve worked on where my name pops up on the second or third screen of contributors. A set of doors that would pop open when you closed them in a certain sequence at one place I worked (yes, like the West Wing episode).

But my favorite was in one of the original versions of the Apple Remote for the iPhone. If you hit the key sequence on the remote just right, (okay, fine, if you hit replay) you could put on a movie to play over and over and over again.

I loved it because I could put on a movie to fall asleep to. If I woke up, it’d still be on and I could drift back off. Handy to have before I got a white noise setup.

I kept hoping it’d be expanded, and you could use it to set up a playlist of shows or movies to just run.

Sadly, it’s now gone. I think the fourth or fifth update, someone nuked it. I can sort of understand why, and with the newer AppleTVs running iOS now, it might not have been long for this world, but it’s still something that might be useful. Set up a couple of episodes of this or that, let it run and repeat, especially for home movies. Truly an edge case scenario, but one that was pretty useful on nights when sleep was helped by a soothing replay of an old favorite movie.

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