Is creativity a dirty word?

Posted in June of this year, the cartoon below is probably yet another one of Hugh’s classics. I don’t think ‘creativity’ is a dirty word for big companies, I actually believe it’s pretty popular. Still I agree with the point that Hugh is trying to make. I hear a lot of talks about ‘creativity’ at the start of a product/campaign, but once things start going it seems like creativity is the first out of the door.

dirtyword10061-550x486

So get over to Hugh’s gallery and buy this print so you can hang it in your office ;)

How to please your I.T. Department

While cleaning out my little home office this weekend, I just found this A3 paper that was once distributed at Microsoft containing the following tips:

  1. When you call us to have your computer moved, be sure to leave it buried under half a ton of postcards, baby pictures, stuffed animals, dried flowers, bowling trophies and children’s art. We don’t have a life, and we find it deeply moving to catch a fleeting glimpse of yours.
  2. Don’t write anything down. Ever. We can play back the error messages from here.
  3. When an I.T. person says he’s coming right over, go for coffee. That way you won’t be there when we need your password. It’s nothing for us to remember 700 screensaver passwords.
  4. When you call the help desk, state what you want, not what’s keeping you from getting it. We don’t need to know that you can’t get into your mail because your computer won’;t power on at all.
  5. When I.T. support sends you an email with high importance, delete it at once. We’re just testing.
  6. When an I.T. person is eating lunch at his desk, walk right up and spill your guts right out. We exist only to serve.
  7. Send urgent email all in uppercase. The mail server picks it up and flags it as a rush delivery.
  8. When the photocopier doesn’t work, call computer support. There’s electronics in it.
  9. When something’s wrong with your home PC, dump it on an I.T. person’s chair with no name, no phone number and no description of the problem. We love a puzzle.
  10. When an I.T. person tells you that computer screens don’t have cartridges in them, argue. We love a good argument.
  11. When an I.T. person tells you that he’ll be there shortly, reply in a scathing tone of voice: “And just how many weeks do you mean by shortly?”. That motivates us.
  12. When the printer won’t print, re-send the job at least 20 times. Print jobs frequently get sucked into black holes.
  13. When the printer still won’t print after 20 tries, send the job to all 68 printers in the company. One of them is bound to work.
  14. Don’t learn the proper term for anything technical. We know exactly what you mean by “My thingy blew up”.
  15. Don’t use online help. Online help is for wimps.

I’m sure someone copied it from someone else back then (and again…) so maybe nothing new but I still find it a classic worth sharing. Made me smile :)

Last day at Microsoft

Yes you`re reading it right, as of May 5th I am no longer working at Microsoft. Didn`t see that one coming? Neither did I. As part of the latest round of global lay-offs in which probably some 3000 jobs were lost, I also was told my job was made redundant. So here I am at home thinking about what I`m going to do next. Does that mean I`ll going all Mac etc all of a sudden is what people ask me most, next to the question about what plans are for the future. It`s too soon to tell what the future will bring but I have no grudge against Microsoft so the answer is no I don`t intend to change my opininion on what I`ve been doing the last few years. I always enjoyed working here there and especially my last job felt like a good bet for the future… I still think it is but probably it was just too soon.

Next up? Some time off, talk to people about possible opportunities, write that paper I had been thinking about for a long time and probably blog a bit more again. I sure have the time now. And train a bit more to be able to get up that Mont Ventoux with my racebike in August, all on the plan. In the jobhunt I`m pretty open about what and where that can be right now – full time or project-based, employee or independent, Belgium or elsewhere. Time will tell. In case you think you have or know something for me, feel free to let me know in the comments or via email (kris@crossthebreeze.com) or just help me spread the word that I`m jobhunting by a simple Retweet or something similar. Thanks in advance.

Probably some more updates on all this soon, the jobhunt starts now. Wish me luck ;) Here is more about me on LinkedIn in case you want to know more.

The Garmin UX: terrible!

Rant alert. I got myself a new racebike about 2-3 weeks ago and also received a Garmin Edge 605 bike GPS for my birthday a few days later. Started using both straight away… well kinda. I am a bit of a web & gadget addict (I am sure you had that one figured out by now) and can only say that it has been a very long time since I last had a user experience so awful as the one with my Garmin Edge.

As usual I started using the device without reading any of the documentation and obviously Garmin is not to blame here, it’s just how we roll :). It didn’t take long before I did look into the user guides as I couldn’t quite figure out some of the main features. It took me a while to find the Garmin Training Center software, which doesn’t come with the device but is offered as a download via the user guide, you do need it though when you want to look at the data you gathered while cycling with the GPS tracker on. Later on I also found out about Garmin Connect, which is the ‘old’ Motionbased web service. Not all very obvious either because when you sign up to Garmin Connect you land on My Garmin where all immediate links to Connect are hard to be found… you just wonder that’s all there is to it at first.

garmintrainingcenter

The odd thing is that Garmin Training Center and Garmin Connect are not connected. They pretty much do the same thing – one on the PC, the other online – but you got to upload data separately, it uses other user accounts, … I guess Garmin hasn’t heard of Software+Services just yet. Very unfortunate. One of the things I also wanted to use is RouteYou (or similar services) where you can download and share tracks from and with other users. Downloading tracks to your device is easy, although can be improved quite a bit. You can download in several formats (GPX, CRS, TCX, …) but it’s not clear which one you’re best off downloading. Garmin also offers a Communicator website plugin that transfers the track straight to the GPS device… but since it always used the same name (garmin.gpx) you can only use that for one track at a time… silly I’ll tell you. Uploading tracks that you’ve done to the site is even more difficult. Both Garmin Training Center as Garmin Connect only allow to export tracks in the TCX (Training Center) format… but RouteYou and others need the GPX file to upload. So you need a TCX to GPX converter after exporting a track before you can upload it to share with others… not sure if I want to go through all those efforts. Garmin Connect allows for one-click easy sharing of tracks though… on Digg and Facebook, how useless is that.

Yes I’m frustrated. And I haven’t even started talking about the questions I still have on the UI of the device itself, or on Mapsource (the additional software to create routes), … Hopefully I’ll find out at some point, feel free to point me in the right direction. For now I can just repeat what I said before, Garmin you got some work cut out for you because the UX of your devices and software just sux.

Strandbeest by Theo Jansen

Amazing. No other word for it… I find it hard to understand I missed it earlier on, but then again that’s the beauty of the web, that you can keep discovering beautiful things day after day I guess. Today at the Creativity World Forum (I’ll write about the whole event once it’s over) one presentation really fascinated me and that was the presentation from Theo Jansen.

Theo Jansen is an engineer/artist or even better a kinetic sculptor who creates new forms of artificial life, sculptures or animals that are made by very light material and that move powered by wind on the Dutch beaches. Check it out:

Theo Jansen has given presentations on this topic at TED and other events hence my remark I really should have seen this before, but I didn’t. Glad I have now though.

The privacy manifesto

Today I came across an interesting post on a topic that’s been the subject of quite some discussion during the last few days. Alec Saunders (CEO of iotum) wrote a post called ‘A Privacy Manifesto for the Web 2.0 Era‘ in which he states the right we – consumers – should have online which he calls the 4 principles that form a Privacy Manifesto for this new web era:

Now, what rights should you have? Here are four principles that form a Privacy Manifesto for the Web 2.0 Era (in short):

  1. Every customer has the right to know what private information is being collected
  2. Every customer has the right to know the purpose for which the data is being collected, in advance
  3. Each customer owns his or her personal information
  4. Customers have a right to expect that those collecting their personal information will store it securely

The article also shows what the implications of these principles would be on a couple of examples the author gave in the beginning. Now all interesting, but it got me thinking. This just didn’t seem all the unfamiliar to me, and then when I saw @pascalvanhecke’s reply on Twitter it hit me: of course – this is all in the European law related to the protection of personal data. Read the full text at Wikipedia, but it is interesting to see what the initial guidelines where for this law (which data from 1980):

  1. Notice—data subjects should be given notice when their data is being collected;
  2. Purpose—data should only be used for the purpose stated and not for any other purposes;
  3. Consent—data should not be disclosed without the data subject’s consent;
  4. Security—collected data should be kept secure from any potential abuses;
  5. Disclosure—data subjects should be informed as to who is collecting their data;
  6. Access—data subjects should be allowed to access their data and make corrections to any inaccurate data; and
  7. Accountability—data subjects should have a method available to them to hold data collectors accountable for following the above principles

Again, this isn’t the actual law – but this gives you the best idea of the intention and idea behind it. Read the full text and you’ll see. Interestingly enough, Dennis Howlett wrote a post today saying ‘Did Scoble break EU law on Facebook?‘ which is talking about the same law. And I agree with Dennis, the whole ‘hack’ was appalling to say the least.

[Update: Mike Butcher at Techcrunch UK also links EU laws to data portability]

What do you think?

 

Back in business

After almost 3 weeks of holiday traveling through Borneo, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore I returned back to work yesterday… totally relaxed. I decided to just kill the +8.000 post in my RSS reader waiting for me so if you think there’s something I should absolutely read from the last 2-3 weeks let me know. In the meantime I’ll leave you with this sunset view from one of the bars in Kota Kinabalu. Damn I wish I was still there :)

SabahSunset

Modern data visualization

I don’t remember how I came across this post of ‘Data visualisation: modern approaches‘ on Smashing Magazine, but it describes some pretty cool stuff. It gives an overview of some utterly fascinating ways to visualize data, something you definitely have to go see for yourself. Some of them could be art.

One of my favorites is amaztype ‘a typographic book search’ where each amazon query gets visualized in a very interesting way. Here’s my search for ‘travel’:

travel

You got a see for yourself how cool it is, not quite useful but pretty. Make sure you check out the original post for a lot more interesting examples. And I’ll tell you in a few days why that query on amaztype had to be travel ;)