Category Archives: concepts & ideas

Recent Airport Experience

Toronto Pearson Airport televisionThere’s something mildly agitating about large flat panel television screens occupying public spaces. Go figure, I design stuff for some of these screens.

The airport is a prime example.

After wading through a couple hours of mind-numbing line-ups: a long baggage check-in, customs, then security, weary travellers stumbling towards their gate at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport are greeted by a series of loud television screens indiscriminately scattered throughout the travellers lounge area.
The sound of news, sports and weather highlights blaring in continuous loops is obnoxious and difficult—if not impossible—to escape. Their presence only adds to the already high ambient noise levels and overall sense of chaos most of us grudgingly accept as unavoidable aspects of the airport/travelling experience.
I remember writing a post last year citing some of Roland Krundt’s thoughts on this very subject. One passage in particular seems relevant here, again:

“When TV in public spaces intrudes uninvited into our awareness, it’s a form of theft. The intrusion is most shamelessly predatory in spaces where, of necessity, people are temporarily trapped: for example, in elevators or taxi cabs. We’re being coerced, robbed of choice about how to allocate our attention. Our presence contributes to the revenues of the TV provider, but we’re not getting paid in return.”

If you can get far enough away from the television screens in the waiting area (at Pearson) you’re likely stuck hearing the top-pop-40 elevator music filling the airport corridors. This fizzy music is of course periodically interrupted by loud random mechanical buzzing tones (denoting what?), followed minutes later by pre-recorded airport safety reminders, repetitively sounding-off over and over again. Yes yes, I know, we’re not supposed to leave our bags unattended—okay, I get it.

Would it be possible to accept some sort of travellers EULA prior to my airport visit so I wouldn’t have to constantly hear these PA system alerts before my flight?

I really just want a nice quiet place to sit and relax. I don’t want to be force-fed hockey highlights or the latest stock market reports at 110 decibels. After all, I, like every other traveller, carry with me a number of Web-connected devices that allow for instant access such information at my discretion. So why do we need these TVs again?

I wish I had a pair of noise-cancelling headphones at this very moment.

Maybe airports could start incorporating designated “noise-reduced” areas for travellers looking for a little peace and quiet. Perhaps a place for meditation, quiet study, reading or power napping before flights.

Just a thought.

Only The Journey Matters

next train matters

Several days ago creative procrastination (yes, it happens to all of us) led me to Sean Low’s blog, the business of Being Creative. Sean’s latest post raises a number of thought provoking questions, most notably: “What work matters to you? Beyond your creative business, your clients, colleagues or employees.”

This question concerns us all, not just the “artists” and the league of extraordinary creative endeavours. In every worthwhile pursuit in life, the journey of discovering what really matters—work related or otherwise—can take years or even decades to find then embrace.

But isn’t that ultimately the point? Isn’t the journey itself what really matters most? Not the short term deliverables or next week’s deadlines, but the way we reach these outcomes—not the outcomes themselves.
Yet these more immediate concerns (e.g. deadlines, meetings, emails) typically get the lion’s share of our attention, while the bigger questions, for example, “What will the next 10 years of my work look like?”, get pushed aside as we get distracted by next week’s commitments. Another round of deadlines, meetings, and emails please!

It seems fitting, in an odd way, the journey of getting to-and-from work is analogous to our career and the way things seem to spontaneously unfold. Iterative and unscripted; episodes sometimes marked by trial and error; a series of interconnected interactions, some fruitful, others conspiring to give us high blood pressure and a few extra grey hairs. There’s an algorithm at work, somewhere behind the scenes.
Consider the typical urban commute: walking or perhaps running to grab a crowded, smelly bus or streetcar; then a bumpy, noisy subway train ride; transfer, then a brisk walk through a sea of people clamouring to grab another train going off in a completely different direction; brush against a few people, another bumpy, but not-so-smelly train ride this time; an exit, more walking, then an escalator going down, down, another few hundred feet through a steel and glass fortress, then a huge flight of stairs (can I climb this?); a quick jaunt across a busy street—yikes, almost got hit by a taxi cab; a series of doors open leading to an elevator. Now, this is where the fun begins.

If each of us knew intuitively from day-one exactly the type of work that would provide us with the greatest sense of fulfillment our careers might end up being quite boring. If we always follow a straight and narrow path meticulously plotted out, cautious to avoid any conflict, too righteous to experience failure or entertain divergent circumstances outside of our “job description”, things could get awfully monotonous.

The only way to find and fully appreciate work that genuinely matters is to go through the experience of doing work that doesn’t matter.

So go and do work that doesn’t challenge or engage your creativity or your analytical side; collaborate with clients that try to paint you into a corner, pigeonhole your ideas, or micro manage your contributions. Do this for as long as it takes to realize what you really want to do. Then, possibly, you’ll have the insight and motivation to seek out the work that truly matters.

This may sound like a guerilla tactics approach or a strange interpretation of enlightened ideas on the quest to find meaningful work. Indeed, career planning can be an oxymoron if only because the world of work carries with it a strange, curious, scary, and often unpredictable nature that can’t readily be preplanned.

(photo: Michelp62)

Nomophobia, Really?

Captcha Fields and Facebook Connect

Captcha fields and the exclusive use of Facebook Connect for Web and app data submission purposes are two of my biggest digital phobias, oh if there were ever a UX faux pas avoidance manual.

When I encounter captcha fields I feel like I’m being asked to complete a rudimentary segment of a primitive voight-kampff test.
Prove to us you’re human and we’ll allow you to sign-up for our service, receive our newsletter, or bestow unto you the ability to leave a comment on our really important blog, assuming of course our moderators like what you have to say.

The Administrator’s disclaimer could read: Our desire to eliminate spam is so compellingly strong we’re willing to completely undermine the UX on our Web site and insult your intelligence by asking you to decipher this tediously convoluted visual abstraction. Our captcha fields will ensure you’re a real, live human being, and not some conniving spam bot looking to mercilessly scrape our site’s content. We appreciate your cooperation.

The equally irritating Facebook Connect is, by some accounts, contributing to the erosion of online privacy. “Please log-in to our service with Facebook Connect”, many digital services brazenly ask. Who doesn’t cringe when they see this nauseatingly austere message. A brilliantly designed personal data tracking system or the easiest way to bounce 30% of your audience. What ever happened to simply asking people to provide generic username/password credentials? When choice is limited the experience suffers. Chalk another one up for the UX faux pas avoidance manual.

But the latest phobia entering our popular tech nomenclature: nomophobia is both a fascinating phenomenon and a testament to how inextricably connected we’ve become with our phones. People who fear being out of mobile phone contact (nomobile-phone-phobia). Think that’s a strange phobia? Consider a recent study by UK based SecurEnvoy concluded 66% of mobile phone users are afflicted by this problem.