I believe that it’s possible to reach a level of work where it’s advantage to your learning through exposure and practice of concepts is outweighed by the disadvantage not allowing for enough extra time to self-study and explore concepts, utilizing personal interest and building stronger mental connections.
When you’re ready, just say you’re ready
When all the baggage just ain’t as heavy
And the party’s over, just don’t forget me
We’ll change the pace and we’ll just go slow
You won’t ever have to worry,
You won’t ever have to hide
If you’ve seen all my mistakes
So look me in my eyes
Cause if you let me, here’s what I’ll do
I’ll take care of you
If you open Adobe PDF reader, it may look something like this:
You press CTRL+F to get the ‘Search’ pop-up to appear in the top right. Ignore it’s small size, even smaller buttons, and obscure menu options.
I focus in the box, and my cursor appears. I type text I want to search for:
I hit enter to search. The page will scroll to the first instance of this word. But the frustrating part is where it places your cursor in the ‘Search’ pop-up:
It’s placed at the beginning of the text. WHY?!?!? The two sensible work-flows would be:
Keep the cursor where it was, at the end of the text. That way, it’s in the same state as where I left off before the search: super intuitive, and expected.
Highlight the entire text. Which I revise what I’m searching for I press backspace once and bam, I have a clean search. I can actually just start typing and it will delete my current search beautiful.
From where the reasoning came to place the cursor in the most un-intuitive place possible (barring randomly in the middle of my search text or in the page number input field), I have no idea.
I was biking down Bridgeport on Saturday, and that little bagel shop on the north side just before Peppler caught my eye. There was a bigger sign, and some balloons. I had heard a lot about this bagel place, but I had never been in; it was always closed.
I cycled up to the door; the ‘Open’ sign was off, but the door was open and I had saw someone inside, so I decided to check out the Rise & Shine Bagel Co. for the first time (here’s a great Imprint article on the place, which I definitely recommend reading). A conversation ensued and I bought 4 bagels, both of which led to this post.
The owner, Brian Burechails, was a very friendly middle-aged man. He told me about how he’s struggling with the business. He used to be quite successful: he used to cater to large organizations in the area, but they left because they could get bagels at a better price. He told me how he has a few loyal customers, but many of have left because they’d rather get a bagel from your local franchise.
[Brian and his bagels, photo belongs to Ted Fleming]
I said: “Why is this happening? I thought Waterloo was very good at protecting their local businesses?” I thought this because of all the great shops in uptown Waterloo and Main Street Kitchener, who seemed to be doing fine. He told me that Waterloo is actually really bad at keeping their local shops, in comparison to other cities in the area such as Woodbridge, Oakville, Mississauga.
When I told him he should try to take advantage of the huge student population, he said he used to be very close with the universities, and that had passed. When I told him he should be open more hours of the week, he said he can’t sell enough bagels to make it worth the time. I’ll spare you the details because they’re not necessary, but the bagel shop isn’t doing well. Oh, and they had balloons because they were having an Open House, but it didn’t go so well: he told me he had sold less than he would on a normal day. Must have been the weather.
But, I can assure you that it’s not because the bagels suck. I’m no bagel connoisseur so I can’t fully be trusted, but maybe this guy can, and this guy too. Point is, they were amazing. Apparently the’re New-York style, but baked in a wood oven that morning was did it for me.
So the bigger question is, why don’t people support local businesses? Why, if given the choice between a bagel at Tim Horton’s or The Rise & Shine Bagel Co., are you going to go and get one from Timmies?
First, there’s convenience. If you’re on campus, there’s a Timmies 2 min away, and Rise & Shine is 20 min away. Time wise, you’re also only gonna be able to go to Rise & Shine 2 days a week, where Timmies is open most hours of the day most days of the week.
Second, there’s price. Usually, franchises are able to deliver lower prices because food is mass produced in comparison to local shops, which serve more artisan things and thus are more likely to be expensive (however, I believe Rise & Shine bagels are cheaper at $0.85 a piece).
But convenience is a big factor, and a valid enough argument going forward.
So, knowing you lack the convenience, why would you buy from a local business?
For me, it’s quality. When I buy a bagel from Tim Horton’s, I don’t know where the grain came from, how it was made, where it’s been: I just know that this bagel is here in front of me.
At a local spot like Rise & Shine, I know all of these things. Because [owner’s name] can tell me. Because he made the bagel. Like, 2 hours ago. Right here. I know that this product has been made by a person who actually gave a crap, not by a machine. I know that doesn’t stand for much, but it’s the same reason you’ll go to a more expensive restaurant on special occasions: the food is better quality, probably, but it’s also because someone with skill has put time and effort into making that food, and you care about that.
The second reason for me is simply to support local business. First, just keep money in the local economy. When you buy a bagel at Timmies, sure you help pay the wages of the local employees, but profit accumulates at the top, and that top is most likely not in Waterloo. When you buy something from an independent business, more likely than not profit aggregates at the owner, who is probably a local, and gets put back into the economy here.
Also, independent businesses help keep markets diverse. If you’ve ever watched Food, Inc., or any movie of that sort, you’ve seen how major markets such as beef, dairy, and grain are dominated by a few big players. And chances are, bigger franchises are working with those big players for their supplies, simply because they need mass quantity. So you’re probably feeding into helping that monopoly get stronger.
And the local business aspect has more than just an economic impact. I know of a similar situation back in Richmond Hill; a couple from Toronto moved up into the ‘burbs to open an independently owned coffee shop (A better Coffee Company and Tea Emporium), to free the people of suburbia from their monotonous franchised beverages. I like their drinks, but again, I’m no Connoisseur. That being said, if I want a good latte, I think guy who has been a Barista this whole life and owns a coffee shop is gonna be able to make me a better latte than the high school kid at [generic franchise store].
And yeah, maybe their latte is a bit more expensive, but they can tell me exactly where the coffee beans came from, when they were picked, what makes them special; anything I’d ever want to know about my latte. And even if it doesn’t make any difference to me where the beans are from, it shows me they care, and I appreciate that.
But all of these reasons are pale in comparison to the most important part of a local business which is the human connection, the relationships you develop. When I go to a Starbucks, the highlight of my experience is the pick of the week, or maybe seeing a friend there, or maybe the high school Barista girl is cute.
When I walk in to A Better Coffee Company and Tea Emporium, I can say hi to Brand and Annie, the owners, and maybe their little daughter is there as well. Annie and I will continue our talk about local artists who I’ve put them in contact with, and whose art is up on the walls. Brad and I will complain about University, and how his time at Laurier was. He’ll tell me about cool coffee shops in Kitchener/Waterloo, because he’s competed against their Baristas at national competitions.
Humans strive on meaningful relationships, and local businesses create are prime places to develop positive relationships in your daily life. You know if you watch any sort of media from the 50’s, and everyone is happy, saying ‘hi’ to the mail man, and the neighbors, and on and on: one could say they’re happy because that was the portrayal of the post-war nuclear family, but I say they were happy because they had developed meaningful relationships and human interaction with the people they are around in their daily lives.
So my point is: support local business. It may be a bit out of your way. It may cost a little more (most of the time, it’s actually cheaper). But the personable relationships you can develop when you interact with small businesses outshines any negatives you could ever imagine. Meaningful relationships, sense of trust and community are foundations of human happiness and are the reason why paying an extra five cents for a bagel could become the most rewarding part of your day.
PS. on top of all this, KW is a culturally rich city. People come from all over the country for the St. Jacob markets. When you live ten minutes, why would you shop anywhere else?
Rise & Shine Bagel Co.
52 Bridgeport Street E., Waterloo, ON
Fri-Sat 7am -2pm
A Better Coffee Company and Tea Emporium
126 Tower Hill Rd, Richmond Hill, ON
(905) 783 - 5469
Mon-Fri 7:30am -7pm
Sat-Sun 8:30am - 6pm
At DOT2011 I had the opportunity to talk with Siobhan Quinn. She was a speaker at DOT, and did a cool talk on how to engage users, touching on game mechanics and feedback loops. She was the first product manager at Foursquare, and and prior to that was Software Engineer at Google.
I believe the conversation with the group was about the future of Foursquare, where it was going, and how it planned on keeping up. Although Foursquare has this whole world designed around checking in, they lack a large user base. So, when Facebook launched Facebook Places, they instantly had a user base of around 400 million people. Although Facebook lacked the business model and look&feel which made foursquare so popular, I thought it would be much easier to build that environment than gain 350 million users, therefore Facebook would, if they chose to, beat out Foursquare as the check-in game of choice.
So I asked Siobhan whether she thought Foursquare’s survival would be through building out that massive user base, or if it would be though compromising and integrating, leveraging the user base of another system, like Facebook.
Her response pointed out a flaw in my logic, which was that it’s not the size of the user base that matters, it’s how committed they are. Although Facebook has a large user base, very few of them are on Facebook to use Facebook Places. Foursquare has a much smaller population, but they’re all very active, very committed, and are there for the sole purpose of using Foursquare.
On top of this, as my own addition, I recall when I used foursquare how I lead a different life on Foursquare than I would on Facebook. As I had mentioned in an earlier post, these applications give you the ability to express yourself, and we use them strategically to express ourselves in different ways, based on what the app allows us to do. The same way not everything your put on Facebook would put on your LinkedIn account, sometimes things which belong on Foursquare don’t belong on Facebook, and thus having both those features under one app may cause some identity problems.
So the point is, Although I though Foursquare’s rather small user base is…rather small, in comparison to other applications which offer the same service, people in that community are there for a dedicated reason, and that common purpose and drive will hopefully be what keeps Foursquare thriving…or at least afloat.
I got the chance to ask Aza Raskin how he felt about applying game mechanics to applications to create user engagement, and whether he felt like game mechanics belonged in the health space.
his answer was along the lines of ‘I try to avoid it’ or ‘I don’t like it’, particularly when you are using very core behavioral techniques, like natural instinct stuff. Unfortunately, I forget what the rest of his answer was, and that quite frankly is the most importand part of the entire conversation. My opinion will have to suffice instead.
My first thought was ‘of course, game mechanics shouldn’t be used to make people healthy. Game mechanics can be so manipulative, and why would we want that here? But game mechanics can also be vey helpful. I think Nike+ is a great example of a community which has been creating via game mechanics, and helps many people find the determination to run, and this stay fit. However, the danger comes when people start doing things in your community or application for the game mechanics, and not for the overall purpose. especially if your system does not directly match up with your intentions. For example, if my user gets points for running, but more points for eating healthy, they could start eating really healthy, a lot, and stop running. They’d get more points, but now your user isn’t exercising and is over-consuming calories. I think game mechanics belong in health.
Given what I’ve seen of The Eatery, I definitely agree that it’s not the place for game mechanics. They’re starting at a very low level: what’s healthy, what’s not. I think it’s an awesome approach, and a great first test run in terms of collecting data and gathering users. I think game mechanics belong in health, if you’re careful.
But (and this was my second point), on the other hand, aren’t they using game mechanics? The ability to rate food is not only a direct feesback loop, but also a method for users to contribute and express themselves in the system. I mean, The Eatery just got a million food entries in over a week, and Aza has said that people will spend time just going through and rating food for hours: it’s highly addicting! You can’t say there’s no game mechanics at play there.This brings up the second point, which is: what do you define as game mechanics? or behavioral responses, or whatever you want to call it that gets people addicted to games, whether instictively or not. Calling them or not calling them a mechanic does not affect their effectiveness on your users, and thus you need to be aware of what you are implementing to give to your users. Kinda like how medicine is given in pill bottles, not PEZ dispensers.
When I started to use Foursquare, I started to check in to as many places as possible, I went point crazy! I’d check in to everything and anything. But as my friends list grew, and I became more of a regular user, my motives to check in went from one of social representation to presentation. I’d check into the fancy restaraunts, but checking into a Harvey’s was not really something I wanted to do. I used Foursquare to display the person I wanted to be, wanted people to think I was. But this is dangerous, particularly with behavior change, becuase if people are not accurately representing themselves, then the feedback mechanisms won’t work. When changing your behavior in a social setting like Foursquare, there are two ways to become content with the imformation presented. You can change your habits such that you are happy with the data that’s representing your life, or you can cut out the bad data, and be happy knowing people see the happy part of your life. Hopefully The Eatery finds a way to avoid the second path. Keep people honest, keep a motivated, positive environment, where people can change their life for the better.
At some point, doctors had been brought into the conversation, which lead me to ask Aza where he thought doctors and other medical professionals came into the picture of The Eatery. I was thinking for the main purpose of having someone to help moderate food ratings.
He said that doctors played an interesting role in the US healthcare system, and, more or less, they didn’t belong in the application. But what I really found interesting was his vision: he wanted to build a massive system which was completely user based. Then, users would bring that system to their doctors, and say “here, I use this.” and the doctors would have no choice but to comply. A bottom up system. Amazing.
If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you may be familiar with my concerns with top-down systems, ones that start with the enterprise and get pushed on their end users. However, I thought that it would be impossible for small, user-oriented systems to make it because, as much as the users enjoy it, the organizations would never be able to adopt due to lack of enterprise-level functionality.
I think what Aza said has basically gone against this. He thinks it can. Quite frankly, I’d be more than happy to be wrong and see it happen than be right and see it not.
Game Mechanics are responsible for endless hours spent bent over Xbox and PS3 controllers, surrounding us in cartoons, violence, and bizarre fantasy worlds, slowly and steadily eating our time away. They’re powerful.
How powerful you ask? Well, to find out, let’s apply some game mechanics to something people don’t like doing, and see if we can get them to do it! Even better, what if that thing we got them to do was something good for them, or for their community, or for the planet?
This is even more impressive in the real world, as when people (or, at least, I) think game mechanics, my mind often runs strait to the software realm.
The Fun Theory is a Volkswagon-sponsored initiative which makes ordinary events which people tend not to do fun. Examples are taking the stairs as opposed to the escalator, using the bottle return, or throwing away garbage in a public park.
If you’ve watched the videos, it’s easy to understand why they are so successful. I’d want to walk up a piano, and I’d definitely go find more garbage just to hear that cartoon endless drop noise. Unfortunately, none of these are long term solutions. E.g. you couldn’t have every garbage can in Europe make a satisfying ping noise. Plus, it would get annoying after, a while. A very short while.
But I think they’re on the right track. Use game mechanics, or some sort of behavioral stimulus, to encourage people to do these things.
I would really like to see an installation regarding throwing cigarette butts out. Somehow, make a system which convinces users to throw their cigarette out in a disposal system as opposed to on the floor. Bonus points if you get them to pick up old cigarette butts and dispose of them, just because your system is so good. Bonus bonus points if you get them to smoke another cigarette just to use the system. But, then you get negative points, because, well, that’s just morally wrong.
Friday’s Design Our Tomorrow event was a screening of Gary Hustwit’s Urbanized, a Documentary exploring…urbanization. It followed the same pattern as his previous works Helvetica and Objectified: More or a train or thought, a discussion or exploration of diverse urbanization projects across the world, as opposed to having a specific thesis.
Gary was present to answer questions about the project. The one thing I liked to heat was that he had planned it, exactly as it was filmed. He started the project by six months of sitting down and talking to people, learning everything he could about development of places, urban design, etc. And as he met people, they would say “Have you talk to ____? Oh, you have to talk to ____!”, and so he did. Which explains the flow of the documentary, and it’s comforting to know it’s style was planned.
He also explained the logical progression of his films. First, Helvetica, a film about fonts, simply because he wanted to see a film about fonts. He had a good quote surrounding this: “If you see something creative & unique and it doesn’t exist, that’s probably a good queue to go do it yourself.” Next, was Objectified, a film about Objects, just because. Then as he was touring the 100 or so cities with Objectified, he was exposed to a great deal of urban developments, which sparked the interest in creating Urbanized.
Within the film, A few things caught my attention:
First was a lower income development. I forget where, but basically they had to build homes for $10,000. With the $4000 remaining after plumbing, electricity hook-up, etc., they could not build and furnish a home big enough for a family of 4. Instead of building a home too small, they build a home the right size, yet left the inside unfurnished. This meant the home was adequate size (putting in a wall is a lot less expensive than expanding a house), and the residents could upgrade as they could afford. Furthermore, the residents were directly involved in the creation of the space, increasing the sense of responsibility and ownership. A great engineering solution to a very conscious problem.
There was discussion of the Stuttgart 21 Project, a controversial project where the existing traditional, outdated train station and existing park was to be removed and replaced with an upgraded one. Politicians were in favor of the upgrade, preparing Stuttgart for the high speed train systems spreading across Europe, but the citizens were in favor of keeping the existing station and park. My favorite part of the story was about the trees in the park: during WWII when Stuttgart was bombed, the people needed firewood to keep themselves, warm, but no one cut down the trees in the park. Regardless, and apparently opposed to public desire, the trees were removed, and the project was continued with. The incumbent government was removed from power the next term after 56 years in office, and replaced by the Green Party. Oh, the power of the public. I believe it really emphasized the need to listen to the people when you make decisions in ANY context, in this case specifically considering the development of public space.
Another cool one was about Brasilia, where, essentially, the city was beautifully designed from the air, but was hell to navigate on the ground. Again, the importance of including the ‘real world’ in design: it looks good on paper, but does it make sense for the people?
One looked at how strategic urban development was used to raise the moral quality of life for citizens, through improvement of public transportation and precedence given to public transport and bicycles. The quote was something like “In democracy, everyone has equal priority. so a bus with 100 passengers has 100 times priority over a car carrying one. This is democracy in action.”
The aforementioned project and another looked at bike lanes, and how, by improving the safety measures and ‘luxuries’ given to cyclists, we encourage cycling and help cut traffic.
I forget whether it was a quote from the movie, or from Gary himself, on cycling: “It seems that we think the solution to traffic is more road space. But the real solution is to restrict people’s ability to use cars. And the easiest way to do this is through restricting parking. Parking is not a human right, it’s a privilege”
The purpose of the quote is that expanding transportation networks is somewhat counter intuitive: we encourage the actions which cause the traffic in the first place. The real solution is restricting luxurious access and encouraging those which work for the benefit of the city: walking, biking, public transport.
Finally, one excerpt was on New Orleans. First, how although Brad Pitt’s project of funding architecturally stunning homes is cool and technically working towards re-population, there are many better ways to spend that money.
Second in New Orleans was a street artist who decided to stay in the area. She would walk around all of these places which were abandoned, and decided to put ‘I wish this was’ stickers on them, which looked like your typical name tags. People would write what they wish the place was on the stickers, and you’d get a cool sense of what the community wanted from…the community. I liked this because you are directly involving used in the design of communities: where would we REALLY want our grocery store, etc? It’s also a moral boost to see that people have motivation and hope for change. I also believe that there is tons of room for application for this. For example, if our engineering society put up a wall of ‘I wish EngSoc was’ stickers, what better way to get a sense of what the community would like to see us do for them? I’ll probably try to use this idea, and I’ll see how it goes.
All of the segments were eye-opening, particularly the ones about the improvement of slums in South Africa and Bangladesh: how you can use urban design to aggressively change characteristics of the space, and thus the people.
Along with Helvetica and Objectified, Urbanized was a great piece. I’d describe it as:
- Case-study oriented
- thought provoking.
This movie is a must-see.
So DOT just ended: what an inspirational day. Phenomenal speakers, and thus phenomenal presentations. I have much to post about, but most excitingly I got to meet Aza Raskin and Siobhan Quinn, which was great. More aftermath text to come!