Posts tagged “adoption”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Airwalk footwear – In the mid-90's, Mann left the company. After his departure, the decision was made to "go mainstream" and focus on a more general audience rather than just creating shoes for sport enthusiasts. There was a brief rise in sales, but some people loyal to the brand found the mainstream designs questionable.
  • What happens when underground brands go mainstream – Wharton marketing professors David Reibstein and John Zhang have been exploring how early adopters react when a product goes mass-market. When is there a backlash? When do early adopters switch to new products and when do they stick with the brand?
  • Personas for Firefox | Dress up your web browser – Finally, a definition I can live with: Personas are lightweight, easy-to-install and easy-to-change "skins" for your Firefox web browser.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice: the appeal of simplification by choice elimination – At the bottom of the Heaven's Dog cocktail list there's a category called "Freedom from Choice," where you leave it up to the bar staff to decide your drink. Diners choose the spirit they'd like and whether it should be "citrus-driven or spirituous."
  • Home + Housewares Show 2009…in Cartoons! – Pithy, brilliant, hilarious. Applies pretty much to every tradeshow I've ever been to.
  • Ask Jeremiah: The Comprehensive FAQ Guide to Twitter – It's a great document, but an online FAQ on someone's site is good for the type of user who is going to seek this document out…the mass adoption from Twitter is not going be as well supported by documents like this as it would be through the experience that Twitter itself creates
  • Lisa Smith and Caroline Linder at the Home + Housewares Show 2009 – "a maze of the bizarre and the banal, including picture frame air fresheners, pet hair picker-uppers, fingerprintless garbage cans, antibacterial marinaters, high-power vacuum cleaners, automatic hair-cutters, gas-powered blenders, anti-static dusters and instant boot dryers."
    "the spectacle is especially nightmarish; it represents the darker side of our discipline–product design gone wild and unchecked in the marketplace"
    "Who knew that both Miami Vice and the Southwestern pottery craze are preserved within the wide color range of KitchenAid Mixers?"
    "Q: How did you pick these forms? A:Oh, these are historical forms that we made up.""

Where does Twitter go from here?

(Originally posted on Core77)

It’s an interesting time for Twitter. Although the folks on Twitter are lead user/early adopter types, there is huge buzz about the service. And as with many disruptive innovations, this new-and-different-thing is not well understood and begins to evoke a backlash. The mainstream media (NYT, Daily Show) is enjoying the opportunity to portray the technology – and its adherents – as contributing to a social decline, wasting time, being foolish, self-absorbed, and other cultural sins. But we went through this with cellphones (self-important rich people only), the Walkman (self-absorbed anti-social jerks), and so on. Let’s understand the backlash for what it is: a society grappling with emerging behaviors that challenge social norms. See Evan Williams on Charlie Rose for a discussion of “normal people” using the service.

One way to normalize a new behavior is to think about how it’s going to make money. Because what’s more normal than capitalism, right? So we’ve got all the Skittles buzz recently. We’d rather consider the designed experience that Twitter is facilitating than the marketing, PR, and money stuff, though. For a primer, you can read our previous thoughts here (summary: What the heck is this thing for? You’ve gotta use it for a while and see). Of course, all ideas are brainstorming, and not recommendations. Brainstorming works best when people build on the ideas, so we’d love to see all the builds you can come up with on the issues and the stand-in solutions. Note: some of these things may already be available on; but we see them only when we log out, so not sure how much help that is?!

Out of Box or Is This Thing On?
Just for fun, we went and looked at some of the first tweets (or postings, if you prefer) from people we are connected with on Twitter. Here’s some typical ones

  • taking the plunge
  • ok, i’m here… now what?
  • teaching rissa what twitter is.
  • trying to figure out why i joined twitter

(side note: there’s a lot more exploration of what people’s first tweets are; see this analysis and this part of the My First Tweets project).

There’s nothing wrong with this sort of tweeting, it’s a way for people to explore and test the system out. But it reveals that tentative stage people are in (and some never leave) when first using the system. A general principle here is to give people scaffolding to help them move to a more comfortable, fluid, confident, and rewarding stage of usage. Twitter asks What are you doing? and people can answer that question. But without a more full-fledged model of Twitter, they are always going to be tentative in this stage.

One possibility: give people a backstage mode where they can just try posting stuff, and then once they are ready, turn them “live.” Maybe you get 10 free tweets that no one will see. I’m thinking of Practice Mode in Guitar Hero where the player strums and the disembodied voice urges “great!” “rock on!” “go for it!” Give people permission to play without an audience, and then go live with it.

What Goes Where
Maybe it’d be helpful to provide a diagram that visually explains what you are broadcasting and to whom. What do you see as input on Twitter? Where does what you write go? Who can see it? And sure, if your stuff goes on the public timeline, then “everyone” can see it, but if Twitter is getting (say) 5,000 posts a second, that may change how you feel about your content being put all the way out there. But building that model in a realistic way for people so they understand how public they are being.

The Device Ecocystem
There’s two use cases here (for most of these issues): posting and reading, and you can configure your devices/technologies a few different ways. There’s a cliche of Twitter as a mobile device-only system, but it’s much more flexible than that. You can use IM, SMS, or PC and a combination or multiplicity. That creates a lot of options and customization, but people need a bit of help understanding what the options are, and perhaps why those options would be better for one situation than another (rather than realizing how much it sucks to get 30 texts in 4 minutes).

The External App Ecosystem
We could imagine why Twitter would not want to get involved in telling people about these things, but since they’ve opened up their API there are a ton of other services and applications out there. Designers of these tools are building in the viral aspect so that using this extra service (say, MrTweet which suggests new followers for you) creates a tweet that tells others about the fact that you are using it). But how does a not-so-new user find out what else is available? Sorting through the iPhone apps and desktop apps that let you manage your tweets and followers differently is not an easy task. And no doubt there are websites out there that have captured all that, but why not put it on

Terminology and Commands
We’ve learned most of this by watching other people. But it took a lot of Twitter use before we were clear about conventions such as @ to reply to another person (and to understand what that looked like to the recipient), D to directly and private contact another person, # for tagging, and RT for ReTweeting (we still aren’t sure if that’s an evolved bit of common language or a command that we can use somehow). Can we help people with this? Sure, help text on the screen, but also some sort of smart tech, like Google’s suggestions during search, or (God forbid) a Clippy-like solution that offers some suggestions based on what it thinks you are trying to do.

Social Norms
One of the consequences of new social media is that it creates unarticulated and emotional expectations on others. People that post too much are rude. People that don’t tweet enough are rude. People that don’t have a bio, or a good user name are rude. People that follow us back too quickly are obsessed. People that don’t follow us back are rude. People that …well, you get the point. We bring expectations about others into this new interactive soup, but we can bet that most people do NOT share those norms, and it can get ugly, or awkward. Twitter is in no position to dictate those social norms to people as they are evolving organically, but Twitter could provide some coaching. Why doesn’t Twitter itself analyze our usage and suggest – something – in a gentle way. Or at least help make us mindful that there are evolving and varying social norms here and we should take it easy on ourselves and with others. Note: David Pogue addressed this issue pretty well here.

What To Use It For
Twitter might not want to go too far with this either. People are inventing all sorts of new use for Twitter all the time. But highlighting some use cases would be interesting and eye-opening for people as they either are thinking about putting their toe in, or after they are users and considering what the heck this thing is really for. Although it’s rather smarmily self-congratulatory, the LinkedIn Blog does this fairly well.

I’m sure we’ve missed a ton of ideas. What do you think?

Note: follow us on Twitter at and (new)

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Slightly silly analysis of the emergence of salted caramel as a mass-market flavor – "Like grief, American food trends go through five stages, said Kara Nielsen, a trend analyst at the Center for Culinary Development in San Francisco, where companies like Wendy's and Kraft go to develop new products. The center uses a five-part trend map to trace an ingredient's trajectory from chef's indulgence to supermarket staple."

Teasing apart meaning

Economists are talking about repugnance, a crucial, complex, and culturally varied driver of what people will and won’t do, comfortably.

And last week a woman in Ohio whose ad to sell a horse mistakenly appeared under the heading “Good Things to Eat” in a newspaper’s classified section received dozens of calls, some expressing outrage and others from people interested in turning it into dinner. (In Europe and Japan horse meat on a menu would stir no more comment than macaroni and cheese would in an American diner.)

“It’s very hard to predict what’s repugnant and what’s not,” Mr. Roth said. Paul Bloom, a professor of psychology at Yale, agreed. He conducted a two-year study to try to get at why people consider athletes who take steroids to be cheating, but not those who take vitamins or use personal trainers. He and his team offered different possibilities: What if steroids were completely natural? Or were not at all harmful? Or were only effective if the athlete had to work harder than before?

The only change that caused the interviewed subjects to alter their objections to steroids was when they were told that everyone else thought it was all right. “People have moral intuitions,” Mr. Bloom said. When it comes to accepting or changing the status quo in these situations, he said, they tended to “defer to experts or the community.”

Often introducing money into the exchange – putting it into the marketplace – is what people find repugnant. Mr. Bloom asserted that money is a relatively new invention in human existence and therefore “unnatural.”

We’ve written before about how people naturally slip from one idea to the next; our structures for organizing information are not like an Excel spreadsheet. This necessitates a triangulation approach to trying to get at what somebody’s mental models might really be and move beyond monolithic statements like “Steroids are bad!” The example of pulling apart the possible objections to steroids (fairness? composition? safety?) is right on. We might also take the reverse approach and frame it as a participatory-design thought-exercise: “You’re the executive of a pharmaceutical company and you want to find a way to make steroids acceptable to the general public. What could you do?” By looking at what people might change, we can reveal (sometimes more easily) what is stopping them from adopting something now. These barriers are crucial design opportunities that producers must understand and address.

Why do people adapt to some new technologies and not to others?

Haven’t seen any posts about The Risk of Innovation: Will Anyone Embrace It? from the weekend NYT. Perhaps it’s because the thesis isn’t novel or well articulated? G. Pascal Zachary reminds us unnecessarily that some products are hard to use and that some products are released but fail miserably. He conflates technology and innovation, and ignores any notion of user experience or marketplace success from his implicit definition of innovation. And he reminds us that getting people to buy and use something new is the big question that all companies want an answer to.

These are good themes to be explored further. Zachary wasn’t given the time or the space to offer anything new on the topic, though, and I end up wondering just why the paper did this particular article anyway.

Show Busy-ness

The critics seem to have grasped the limited resource of attention that is impacting (and yet driving) the exploding volume of media we are faced with.

From two different reviews of The Nine

The SF Chronicle

What the TV industry has wrought this year, making us choose among “Brothers & Sisters,” “Men in Trees,” “Six Degrees,” “Ugly Betty,” etc. — puts a burden on viewers to make a bevy of decisions quickly.

The New York Times

Not many people have time and energy to commit themselves to yet another series that requires weekly loyalty and close attention.

There’s obviously some problems with the models here; as everything gets more narrowcast, we can’t – and aren’t expected to – consume it all, indeed we’ll need to just ignore most of it. So why are there more products that demand even greater loyalty? Dick Wolf, in an extensive New York Times Magazine profile a year or so ago, pointed out some of the elements designed into Law and Order that made them re-watchable and timeless, making for huge wins in syndication. These other shows – cliffhanging serials – may or may not do as well in syndication, but I imagine they’ll do better on DVD. The barrier to entry is high, the barrier to late entry is impossibly high. This can breed high loyalty, doubtless, for those that do join the exclusive viewer club, but the critics are right to question the wisdom of Lost-followers trying to repeat that trick.

Happy Birthday, Brody

It’s now about one year since we adopted Brody, a golden retriever. Not quite an anniversary, not quite a birthday, but worth reflecting upon. It continues to be an interesting journey and learning process, but most relevant to this blog perhaps is how fascinating it is to observe and interact with a creature who operates without any social norms or cultural rules, whereas we do and say almost nothing without hearkening back to those same constraints.

I find myself constantly observing him and remarking to myself with surprise or bemusement how he can do something that I want desperately to attach human meaning to. His body language, his lack of body language, his sighs and facial expressions, what and where he licks or sniffs, his reactions to stimuli (other dogs, strangers, cats, alpacas, trucks, food, water), on and on – all are driven by a completely different set of motivations, yet like most dog owners, I do nothing but project upon him.

It’s a reminder to me as an ethnographer that so much of what we do ourselves, or what I observe in others, is constructed through the rules of our culture.

(and sure, there are millions of PhD theses about nature vs. nurture, about sociobiology, about culture-in-animals, no doubt, but really, I hope you take my point for what it is).

New DVD Player

Well, I took the leap today and ordered a DVD player. Yep, I’m Mr. Early-Adopter, eh?

I chose the Panasonic DVD-CV51. It is a 5-disc changer, which means it will replace my CD player in the stack of black boxes currently taking over my living room.

It has all my usual 5 disc CD functions, plus a DVD function. And it’ll play my CD-Rs (of which I have many – but I guess many DVD players won’t play ’em) and it will also play MP3 CDRs – not sure how that will work, but it’s worth a shot. had a very good deal which I found through MySimon. I learned from doing just a little reading that there are a lot of places that are playing bait and switch with availability, shipping costs, etc. Lots of horrific customer experiences on the web. And I guess a phone call 2 days later to sell you more accessories is standard for the lowest priced places. Although with free shipping and a special discount they were offering, I did better than the “unapproved” places.

I paid less, and I have peace of mind. Isn’t life grand? I can’t wait til it arrives!

FreshMeat #6: Take Pictures, Last Longer!

FreshMeat #6 from Steve Portigal

               (oo) Fresh                  
                \\/  Meat

Serendipitous discovery of the customers marketing forgot

Over the past few months I have been attending a local
photo club, held in a small room in the City Hall of a
small Bay Area town. The group gathers about once a week
to share techniques and images.

I am by far the youngest member of the club. I would
put the next youngest person at about 20 years older
than I, and I’d put the average age at 30 years older.

This has made the whole experience interesting, and
very useful. My fellow club members not only have photos
that are 50 years old, they have 50 years of expertise
in taking photos. In a recent meeting, the discussion of
archival materials took on an interesting slant as each
of several men in their seventies dismissed the whole
notion with great bemusement. “Archival materials? But
I’m already archival!” joked one.

The pacing of the meetings is very gentle, and at
first I found that jarring, but I’m learning to ride
with it. As a newcomer to the club, I’ve had the chance
to do a microethnography of the meetings, and I’m going to
share a few of my findings here.

The club provides value to its members by providing a
forum for sharing consumer information: what products
to use (say, for mounting a print), where to find them
for a good price, and so on. A typical exchange might run
something like this (all names have been changed):

Bob: …so now you take the edge cutter here…
Gene: Say, Bob, where do you find a cutter like that?
Bob: What, now?
Gene: I was asking about the cutter.
Marion: Gene is asking about your cutter, Bob.
Bob: Oh, the cutter.
Hugh: You can pick ’em up at any photo store.
Bob: I ordered this one online.
Hugh: Or you can order ’em online.
Bob: Or you can get one at that store down towards…
Bob: Oh, I guess down near Belmont. What’s the place?
Gene: The place near the Safeway?
Bob: No, it’s by the store, there…
Marion: By the Safeway?
Bob: I say what, now?
Doug: By the Safeway?
Marion: By the Safeway?
Bob: …No, it’s down near Belmont.
Gene: Photo Paradise?
Marion: The Precious Frame?
Bob: No…down near Belmont, there, where Hap got his
press last month…
David: Oh, Linda’s place. The Darkened Room.
Bob: I say what, now?
Bob: That’s it. Down by Belmont, The Darkened Room.

Okay, I’m exaggerating, but not that much. But beyond my
gentle mocking is a great example of a social network
exchanging consumer information.

I am also fascinated by the level of computer knowledge
many of the individuals possess. There’s not a lot of web
surfing, or email usage. Club admin info is shared by
telephone, by snail mail, or by handing out photocopied
sheets at meetings. In fact, there is no way any of these
folks are going to be buying a digital camera. But the
computer is a tremendously important tool when it supports
and extends their existing photographic behaviors, namely
scanning and printing of images. Several club members have
invested a great deal of money in color printers, paper,
and ink. And remember, these are not the “grandmas” that
marketeers drool over, the one that will invest in anything
that might provide better connections to children and
grandchildren — these are photographers and artists. They
are wrestling with the technology to make it serve their

One woman came in and presented the results of a
benchmarking study she had done to get the truest black and
white image output. She built a matrix that varied the
paper (manufacturer, grade, matte/glossy), the printer,
the image source (slide, print, color, black & white), and
some software settings that affected the type of printing
being done (I think it was black ink or color ink). (Side
note: if you think the discussion about the store location
was crazy, you should have heard the discussion of how to
change the printing settings in Photoshop…) For each
cell in her matrix, she had a different printout, and we
could see the green shift, the blue shift, and so on. It
was quite excellent.

I’m not suggesting this is a huge market — my evidence is
purely anecdotal. It may not be cost-effective for the
manufacturers to better understand these customers, to
develop and market products especially for them. I don’t
know. But what is provocative is how easy it is for anyone
to stumble on a market that is clearly not well understood,
that absolutely flattens the beliefs about others that
marketers have foisted upon us, for better or worse.


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