Monday, May 29, 2006

Simply do a complex thing, with content

(I know in the blogoverse they call it a meme, but in the big media world it's just ordinary that everyone writes about the same thing). I keep running into articles, like this one on, based on a J.D. Power survey indicating that people think cell phones are too complicated for their needs. This is true for a number of people in my family- big buttons, bright screens you can read in the sun, loud ringers, one touch phone book- those are the features they're interested in.

Usability is important- and yes a lot of people don't use most of the stuff on the phone. Back in my youth, or 10 years ago, or sometime, I remember the GIS greybeards scoffing at ArcView because it didn't do anything useful. They were slightly appalled that my team had hacked it up to do coherent multi-user editing (end users weren't allowed to create geodata back god, they don't even know about albers equal-area conic, how can they click on the map and make data?). It was a heck of a lot of work to make that easy.

I think people are waking up (again?) to the fact that it is hard to simply do a complex thing, and maybe even realizing that it's even harder when you are trying to do "too much".

DVD vs VCR- Is the DVD player more usable than the VCR because it is not a recorder? I almost never have my parents call me for DVD player help. Most VCRs I have used require you to turn the unit off to enable the timer based recording. Maybe it's there because someone in some meeting raised the possibility of problems with accidentally taping over treasured personal recordings, but it seems more like insanity. I really shouldn't have to turn something on to make it work...

We now have a purpose built device that lets people do what the record part of the VCR was supposed to do- record tv when you weren't watching. Surely it will soon be a relic of the broadcast age soon, but the DVR really is the true answer to the problem. I don't want to figure out when my show is on every week- I want you to do it.

I don't quite understand the XM radio recorder (DAR?)- unless you want it just to skip bad songs or you could program in artists you wanted to record. In fact, if someone can figure out how to figure out what song is coming next, you could make an actual Tivo of everything on XM. Almost makes you understand why the RIAA has sued them. Actually, you don't need to know the program schedule ahead of time if you just record a small buffer of the channels of interest so that you could keep the songs you are interested in once the artist information is transmitted. Anyway, when it gets to the point where I can type in "Clap Your Hands Say Yeah" and then have them in my queue to listen to...

The question of the non-broadcast future is- who's the DJ? If we are all getting content on demand- who is telling us what to demand? Well- we end up getting broadcast things from sources we trust, like trusted reviewers, our friends, blogs, that give us things like mp3s we should listen to, that lead us to content to demand. Are bloggers the DJs of the on-demand era? I guarantee I am not the first one to have that mundane thought, but I am too lazy to Google any others at the moment...