April 2008 Archives

Is a Smaller World a Healthier World?


It's hard to go five minutes these days without hearing about sustainability and being green. As a long-time environmentalist this is both cheering and infuriating. Yay that the masses and big business have finally gotten on the bandwagon. Boo that they keep talking about everything as if they just discovered it, and in the same breath as some other fad. Caring for the earth is not a fad: it's a way of life. But it does make it easier to be an environmentalist. There are more tools and resources popping up all the time. The carbon footprint calculators that are springing up all over is such an example.

Ever since I heard Matt Jones talk at Adaptive Path's MX Conference last week, this idea has been rolling around in my mind. Matt talked about the work he was doing with Dopplr, and showed how they just added the ability to see how your travel is adding to your carbon use.

My carbon footprint isn't that bad for an American (notice I qualify it :). I don't eat meat, I ride the bus to work, I compost and recycle, I bring my own bags to the grocery, my detergents and bath products are natural and not tested on animals. Sure, there's lots more that I could be doing. And things that I used to do that I probably should get back to doing (whatever happened to my EcoSneaks?). But I try to pick the more earth and animal friendly options when I can.

Except in one place: travel. My carbon footprint always tanks when you calculate in how much I fly. Airplanes are big time polluters. As a consultant, I am on the road a lot. I also love to travel in my personal life. Exploring other places was a value that I grew up with. And I believe that you can't fully understand some place if you haven't experienced it physically.

Obviously , movies, museums and zoos, photographs, video conference calls, and virtual worlds like SecondLife go a long way to broadening our horizons. They are suitable surrogates for the real thing in a lot of situations. For many people, it's the closest they will ever be able to get to the "real thing." Seeing a zebra in a zoo is better than never seeing a zebra at all, right?

But this brings us to the dilemma I've been wrestling with. If we really want to cut back on our pollution, energy use, and greenhouse gas production, we really should stop flying around the world. The "good" environmentalist would opt for virtual or local surrogates whenever possible, right? As the web and other technologies get better, we won't need to use up resources to go someplace; we just get there from our living room.

But... I don't think I can fully subscribe to that. As wonderful and beautiful and amazing as the Egypt-wing in the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York is, it just can't compare to standing in the great hall at the Temple of Karnak in Luxor, Egypt. I've been to the Acropolis on the Greece sim in SecondLife. It's cool, but it's nothing compared to actually being in Athens. There are cases where close enough isn't good enough. Sometimes you need to have a face-to-face conversation. You can't approximate visceral reactions.

I believe what Baba Diou from Senegal said, "You only conserve what you love, you only love what you understand, and you can only understand what you've been taught." Which says to me, don't give up on having real, authentic experiences. It is through those experiences that we learn. Travel to Kenya and go on safari to see the zebra. But find a way to do it that has the least impact. And it may mean cutting way back in other areas of your life to balance out the excesses elsewhere.

Drinking From the Fire Hose

It's so passé to talk about information overload these days. Living awash in information and ideas is our constant state of operation it seems. Some days, I'm able to navigate these waters. I'm tuned in to the pieces that are relevant to me and am able to let the other things wash over me.

Other times, like how it's been lately, I feel like I'm drowning. There were so many great ideas and connections between thoughts during the IA Summit. I had no time to process all those things before jumping feet first into my next project. I'm now in sponge-mode doing discovery and trying to get up to speed on the intricacies of this organization. This morning I find myself at day two of Adaptive Path's MX: Managing Experience, conference. I'm now getting more ideas thrown my way.

Swimming in information and ideas is something that I love. But what I love more is when I'm able to take that sea and make sense out of it. That's the part that has been lacking recently. I need to make sure I give myself the time and space to reflect, before the tide recedes and these ideas are gone forever.

Come to the AP AP!

Adaptive Path is hosting an IA Summit After Party Sunday night! We'll be at the Hyatt hotel bar from 10-midnight. Come on by and we'll buy you a drink!

Rockin' The IA Summit

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The IA Summit is my most favoritest conference of the whole year. It's a wonderful mixture of old friends getting together and meeting smart, cool new folks. I hardly ever sign up for pre-con sessions (though they are AWESOME and everyone should take one sometime) because I use the first two days for hanging out the in the lobby and saying hi to folks.

This year I finally managed to talk Erik into attending with me. I think he's a little bit overwhelmed with all the people and hugging, so be gentle. But I'm so excited for him to finally meet all you guys that I'm always talking about.

I met so many wonderfully crafty IAs last year when I did my Wireframe as Art poster. I decided that this year we should have an impromptu IA Knitting Circle meeting. So pack up your yarn and needles and bring them to the poster session on Saturday night. I figure we can wander around the posters and then clump and knit. It will be great. And don't worry if you don't knit. Any crafty-type person is welcome. And even those who aren't crafty are certainly welcome. It's about getting to know each other a bit outside the work we do.

See you in the sessions!

Color Wheel as Tag Cloud

--- Originally posted on the Adaptive Path Blog ---

Dolores Blog showed thousands of colors to people and asked them to name the colors they saw. They then plotted those names on a color Wheel, printed in the color. They have a blog post describing the project. The resulting image is beautiful. They then added a filter so you can search for different color names and see where it is on the wheel. It's based on a study to test the universality of language.

When I first saw this, I thought it looked like a type of tag cloud. I like how their filter let's you expand and contract the colors that appear on the wheel. It certainly helps to illustrate how ambiguous language is. I love that there are at least four different colors all called "chocolate."

It also started me thinking about what other types of visualizations could be done. There are certainly lots of things that could be done intersecting it with other data, depending upon what you are interested in. Being able to see the color names along with if the namer was colorblind, their gender, native language and other demographic data would be interesting. I found myself wanting to click on a color name to get more information like how many times that name was used for this color.

What ideas for visualizations do you have?
We are always coming up with new names for things. It's what we do at Adaptive Path. You get smart, geeky, creative people together and wordplay is bound to happen.

A couple years ago now, Dan started advocating for "topless" meetings. All too often our meetings were blogged down by folks staring at a screen and typing instead of participating in the conversations around them. Todd took up the call in a blog post against crackberries last November that caused some stir.

Well, it seems that other folks have really started to take notice. Yesterday, the LA Times published a front page story about topless meetings. Next thing we knew, film crews from ABC, CBS, and NBC were in the office. They interviewed Dan and shot some background images of the office.

The footage aired last night and is already up on the web:

On ABC nightly news. You can see me turn around in the background of one shot.

On the local CBS news.  I'm in a lot of shots of this one.

On the local NBC station. I'm just out of frame on this one, but you get to see a lot of good shots of the office and my coworkers.

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This page is an archive of entries from April 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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