Two Ubicomp Dystopias

Exhibit one: A bus stop ad that displays your weight in Rotterdam. Consider Adam Greenfield’s ethical guidelines for user experience in ubiquitous-computing settings, principle 3:

Be conservative of face. Ubiquitous systems are always already social systems, and must contain provisions such that wherever possible they not unnecessarily embarrass, humiliate, or shame their users.

This bus stop ad is not only inconsiderate but outright purposefully humiliating. I’m not surprised that marketers find abusive uses for any kind of technology, but in the context of ubicomp this tendency to abuse opens some terrifying new possibilities. Worst of all, I cringe at the thought that this is merely an ad. Despite its humiliating nature it would certainly make for an interesting experiment in persuasive computing, but as an advertisement i find it rather tasteless.
Exhibit two: Near Future Laboratory contrasts an excerpt from Philip K. Dick’s Ubik with this article from the Wall Street Journal:

Jamie De Lisle’s Buick had been warning her for days, first with a flashing yellow light, then a flashing red light. But the 31-year-old mother of two from Collinsville, Ill., was too busy to heed the distress signals. It was only when Mrs. De Lisle began hearing an incessant beeping that she took notice: If she didn’t make her car payment that day, the vehicle wouldn’t start the next day.

Usability & Games – RPS interviews Jason Schklar

Rock, Paper, Shotgun recently interviewed Jason Schklar, a freelance usability consultant working in the games biz, which is interesting because one hardly gets to read about usability work in the game development business (and i just happen to be profoundly interested in both usability and game design). I suppose one of the reasons that usability work doesn’t feature very prominently in game development is that the whole field is primarily concerned with creating pleasure and satisfaction in the first place (as opposed to most other areas of software engineering) and therefore there’s a lot of overlap between a game producer’s primary objectives and a usability expert’s. Aside from that, other typical usability measures such as efficiency and effectiveness don’t apply to games too well. Both efficiency and effectiveness are obviously important where a game’s interface and user interaction are concerned, but when it comes to game mechanics, efficiency might translate into a lack of depth and complexity. I suppose it must be difficult to carve out one’s niche as a gaming usability expert between game producers, designers, and the whole QA playtesting department.

See also: Jason Schklar’s weblog.
Related: Today’s RPS Sunday Papers brings a link to Darwinia’s Usability Report – brief but interesting read, very informal.
Related: The Silent Revolution Of Playtests part 1 & part 2 @Gamasutra.

Twitter Traffic Explodes…And Not Being Driven by the Usual Suspects!

It is the 25-54 year old crowd that is actually driving this trend. More specifically, 45-54 year olds are 36 percent more likely than average to visit Twitter, making them the highest indexing age group, followed by 25-34 year olds, who are 30 percent more likely.

Bruce Sterling:

A shocking statistic. It implies that Twitter (supposedly a silly social toy) is being pioneered by people in power rather than young people with time on their hands. The implications of this are severe.

This actually makes sense, all the young people seem to be hooked on Facebook, which left me wondering who exactly it is who’s driving Twitter’s growth…

Tigole on quest design problems

WoW-designer Jeff Kaplan (aka Tigole) recently shared some thoughts on quest design (or more specifically, common problems in quest design) at GDC. Most of these issues will ring a bell with anyone familiar with the game, but it’s interesting to see some of the reasons for certain design choices explained. It’s reassuring that Blizzard is aware of these problems and it’s impressive how upfront they are about their own mistakes. The most striking aspect Kaplan touched on is probably medium envy (Terra Nova has some interesting comments on this):

I feel like we need to deliver our story in a way that is uniquely video game. [...] we need to engage our players in sort of an inspiring experience, and the sooner we accept that we are not Shakespeare, Scorsese, Tolstoy or the Beatles, the better off we are.
If it makes us feel better, Shakespeare couldn’t 3D model his way out of a paper bag.

He also confessed that he’s the one responsible for the infamous “Green Hills of Stranglethorn” collection quest, apparently intent on introducing new players to the auction house.