Monday, April 16, 2012

Boy finds Mom 25 Years Later Using Google Maps

This is an amazing story of technology really changing lives. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, close to 800,000 children are reported missing each year. And that's in the U.S. alone. That works out to approximately 2,185 children every single day.

Now, imagine a city as bustling as Calcutta, India. Notorious for its slums and a population of 5 million. Imagine losing a child in that city!

That's what happened to a young Indian boy, Saroo. He was five years old, fell asleep on a bench, only to wake up realizing his older brother was no where in sight. When he awoke, he jumped on the train in front of him assuming he'd find his brother on board. After a 14 hour train ride, and no luck finding his brother, he realized he was lost.

He ended up getting adopted by an Australian family and raised there. With access to the internet and Google Maps, he was able to start tracking down his family in an attempt to reunite with them. He used Google maps and his "vivid" memory to start looking at cities that seemed to fit where he grew up.

Long story short, he found the city and was able to successfully track down his mother. The story is well worth the read. Follow the source jump below.

Source: BBC

Friday, March 30, 2012

Excellent 404 Page Example

This has to be one of the best 404 pages I've ever experienced. They spoof the crocodile hunter in a unique, outdoor environment. High Fives to the team at Fiverr.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Barefoot Running and the Minimalism Shoe Trend

Does it take more work to run in sneakers or barefoot?

Here's research that goes somewhat against the grain of the barefoot running trend that's sweeping away runners across the nation. The general argument posited by the barefoot proponents is that running barefoot is the way nature intended. What's more, they claim that running shoes have too much foam, rubber, cushioning, technology, etc under foot which results in poor proprioception (the natural ability of your body to "feel" the surface under foot then instantly adapting the whole body and muscular system to adapt to that surface).

Vibram (a pioneer in the barefoot movement. Their FiveFingers line of shoes have become the banner of truth for barefooters) has been sponsoring a bunch of research over the last couple years that has, not surprisingly, concluded that going barefoot is in fact healthier, more efficient, lowers running injuries, etc.

Another study was recently published online in the journal of Medicine and Sciences in Sports & Exercise. This study, conducted by the fine researchers over at the Univ of Colorado, Boulder, found that running shoes (albeit lightweight, 150oz shoes) were more efficient then running barefoot. In other words, the physiological effort required by barefoot running is actually higher than running in a thin soled, lightweight running shoe.

The researchers surmised that one possible reason was the fact that the human body is incredibly adaptable. They believe that with the added cushioning of the running shoe, the finely tuned body of each runner in the study was able to almost instantly adapt to the cushioning. In other words, when running barefoot, many muscles in the legs are activated to absorb each impact. However, with the foam in a running shoe, the foam can absorb some of the impact, requiring less "shock absorption" by the leg.

As noted in the book, "Biomechanics of Distance Running", almost all the energy used when running is to keep the body off the ground, rather than moving it forward. Inertia keeps the body moving, but something needs to keep the body off the ground in order for inertia to move it forward. This is where your legs come in play.

Since your legs are working to keep your body up, "in the air", it makes sense that anything that minimizes the physiological effort required to do so would be a step in the right direction. As such, a minimalist approach to footwear makes a lot more sense rather than going completely barefoot. And this study supports that.

Read the jump below for the full article.

Source: NY Times

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Kid in UK Tries out a Tape Walkman

So this 13 yr old kid in the U.K. gives up his iPod for a Sony Cassette Walkman for 1 week. The article is hilarious, and definitely worth a read. Check out some of the highlights from the article:

"From a practical point of view, the Walkman is rather cumbersome, and it is certainly not pocket-sized, unless you have large pockets. It comes with a handy belt clip screwed on to the back, yet the weight of the unit is enough to haul down a low-slung pair of combats."


It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape. That was not the only naive mistake that I made; I mistook the metal/normal switch on the Walkman for a genre-specific equaliser, but later I discovered that it was in fact used to switch between two different types of cassette.

I managed to create an impromptu shuffle feature simply by holding down 'rewind' and releasing it randomly

Another notable feature that the iPod has and the Walkman doesn't is "shuffle", where the player selects random tracks to play. Its a function that, on the face of it, the Walkman lacks. But I managed to create an impromptu shuffle feature simply by holding down "rewind" and releasing it randomly - effective, if a little laboured.

I told my dad about my clever idea. His words of warning brought home the difference between the portable music players of today, which don't have moving parts, and the mechanical playback of old. In his words, "Walkmans eat tapes". So my clumsy clicking could have ended up ruining my favourite tape, leaving me music-less for the rest of the day."

"When playing, it is clearly evident that the music sounds significantly different than when played on an MP3 player, mainly because of the hissy backtrack and odd warbly noises on the Walkman.

The warbling is probably because of the horrifically short battery life; it is nearly completely dead within three hours of firing it up. Not long after the music warbled into life, it abruptly ended."

To read the full article, go to "Giving up my iPod for a Walkman"

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Who do consumers trust?

Aaccording to a recent article in Brandweek, consumers trust 'Recommendations from people known' more than anyone else. Presumably known people include friends, family, co-workers, etc. However, what's striking is they trust 'Consumer Opinions posted online' at 70% trust level with 'Brand Websites' also at 70%. If this is the case, then these findings create strong case for business models wherein products are hawked via branded websites, featuring product reviews, and sold direct to consumers.

With the economy down, and purchases of private label products rising, this makes for a great opportunity for brands selling direct to consumers.

Following is an image showing the degree of trust placed in the various forms of advertising.

One brand that's begun implementing many of the findings above is a Walking Shoe brand called Kuru Shoes. This brand features the most anatomical Active Shoes in the marketplace offering high quality support and comfort. They also have shoes suitable as Travel Shoes.

For example, check out the Kruzr II travel shoe and you will find the following:
-Product Images
-Add to cart box on the right side
-Product Description
-Product Video
-Recent Press/Buzz
-Customer Reviews

Giving your visitors more information about your products is critical in today's information rich culture. The internet allows us to get all the information we want, when we want it, instantly. This is powerful as it enables the consumers in ways formerly not possible. But, the onus, now more than ever, is on brands to offer the information most relevant, important, and transparent to those customers.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Reebok's Run Easy Campaign is Poor

I was just contemplating Reebok's (herein referred to as rbk) Run Easy campaign. I admire rbk for many of it's accomplishments over the years, for it's overall size, etc, but the brand has definitely been refocused way too many times.

The latest example is the Run Easy campaign. The basic premise is to market rbk running shoes to those that aren't serious athletes. Rather, those that go out for a wimpy "jog". Now, why would anyone who's trying to at least appear fit want to wear a product that screams "I'm not that serious about what I do". The whole Run Easy concept suggests that rbk is confused about their running category. Here are some possible interpretation scenarios we can conclude about their run easy campaign and rbk running shoes:

1. Rbk running shoes simply aren't as good as the competition. As such, you can only run easy in our shoes. Run hard, and they just aren't up to snuff!!

2. Those who wear rbk running shoes aren't that serious about fitness. Hey, at least they're willing to readily and outwardly admit it by wearing rbk. But, if you want to be categorized in the poseur running department, wear rbk. This is similar to buying fitness equipment, only to use it for a few weeks before it begins collecting dust. Almost all home fitness products, particularly those via infomercials, end up very quickly in the back corner of the house, under a bed, in the attic/garage, or thrown away. People are as committed to fitness equipment as they are to eating healthy. They just don't do it very long!!

3. Rbk running shoes are actually as awesome as the best Asics or Saucony running shoe!! That's right, they're just as good. But, rbk wants to give you, the customer, more value, so they market it as a run easy product, which means it should cost less. (i admit, this scenario is confusing, but, so is the Run Easy campaign, so at least were in good company)

4. Maybe rbk is trying to grow the running category as a whole. If they're doing this, then arguably this campaign could be very effective, albeit in the short term. Why only in the short term? Consider this. If rbk is successful at "growing the category", then they will convert customers to running. But, as we've noted in some of the other interpretations, this creates a bigger problem. As soon as the customers are truly converted, they'll drop rbk products like a bad habit since their running shoes are only designed for poseurs, wannabes, or those who really aren't committed. And, if someone's truly committed to the "category" then they'll start buying product that performs. Once again, it's always great to build the category. But, with rbk's short-term product positioning strategy, as created by their ad campaign, their shooting themselves.

5. Arguably rbk is simply being honest in their marketing by admitting most people who buy running shoes simply don't run, aren't into it, and when they do, they run easy (i.e. to catch the bus, into the donut shop, out of the rain, etc). For these duties, I'm sure rbk shoes will perform quite admirably. However, is this how successful product should be marketed? Honesty and transparency should be paramount. However, this kind of honesty from rbk simply loses all the romanticism, dreams, and aspirations of those who run, or would take up running.

A few years back, it appeared that rbk was trying to transition to a more urban, lifestyle brand with athletic influences, all but conceding to Nike the reign of performance footwear. With this run easy campaign, it's as if they've reneged and decided they weren't quite ready to concede. Or, maybe this action is a result of the whole urban trend being in a slump more recently. Either way, it's symptomatic of major marketing confusion. But, the rbk consumer should be used to that, at least in the performance category, as it seems like rbk has been trying to figure out what they stand for over the last few years. And, during that time of confusion, Nike has continued to grow quite nicely and steadily.

Nike = committed
RBK = not committed

A simple marketing principle. Stay committed to your strategy, in both the up and downs. Now, if you are to stay committed to your strategy, that means you better pick a strategy that is sustainable over the long haul. Or, sell out before your trend goes in the dump!!!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Visceral, Behavioral and Reflective Design and Branding

I was reading the Diego Rodriguez's metacool blog and came across a post from a couple months ago. I'm in the process of developing and launching a new urban outdoor footwear brand and found his post very helpful and insightful. It seems like you either intuitively get certain things about business, marketing, design, or whatever other discipline you're in, or you don't. If you don't, you should find someone who does, such that everything's done properly. With that in mind, here's the basic gist of Donald Norman's model of human Cognition.

"If you want a successful product, test and revise. If you want a great product, one that can change the world, let it be driven by someone with a clear vision. The latter represents more financial risk, but it is the only path to greatness." -- Donald Norman

As Rodriguez summarizes, "a quick outline of his [Donald Norman] model of human cognition. First, we take in our external environment using two channels, one Visceral, which is the realm of things like looks, feel and smell; the other Behavioral, which is what allows us to create movement and take action. Operating on top of those channels is our Reflective processor, which Norman describes as the “… level that conscious and the highest levels of feeling, emotions, and cognition reside.” Most of what we call “branding” happens at the Reflective level".

Therefore, the three primary steps in human cognition:
  • Visceral - the aesthetic
  • Behavioral - action
  • Reflective - emotions, feeling, and pure consciousness

So, for effective writing or tools of persuasion, you have Logos [Logic], Pathos [emotion], Ethos [credibility]. are the three steps in human cognition/design the same? I suggest that Visceral=Ethos, Behavioral=Logos, Reflective=emotion. Now, I must admit I've never read the book. I'm only going based on a couple blog posts I've read on the topic. Visceral appears to be Ethos, or Credibility, because as soon as someone witnesses good design, instant credibility is formed. All of a sudden, the viewer expects the designed object to meet a certain standard of intuitiveness, ease of use, efficiency, etc. Once this credibility is established, there's a logic behavior that must occur (i.e. Behavioral=Logos). The viewer then has to interact with the designed object. If the interaction validates the initial Visceral impression of the viewer, then the viewer experiences a reflective moment where they are validated on numerous levels. They have then connected to the designed object, brand, experience, etc.

The tough thing is design is constantly evolving. What was cool design a couple years ago may appear mundane now. I'm reminded of an article I read years ago about Oakley and their design process with their sunglasses. The designer would stress for weeks and months over the minutia. They would move design lines less than millimeters in various directions in order to ensure the most perfect fitting pair of sunglasses. This over zealous focus on product design has created an empire wherein Oakley is the definitive brand and product. Oakley, by far, is definitive emotional brand in the sunglasses space. No other brand even comes close.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Windows Haters Unite

I must admit, my first exposure to computers was on two different macs. But, for all intents and purposes, I am a very well-versed Windows user. I love how Apple has influenced different trends including product design. However, my cheap soul just can't justify the expensive entry price into a Mac machine. At least not yet. But, for anyone who knows what a computer is, and has ever used a Windows machine for longer than an email break at the Public Library, then you'll enjoy this gif. CLICK HERE to see the animation.