Things what I writ

I sometimes write nonsense about things to try and sound clever

The Return of the Design Comic

They’ve never really been away, but there’s a number of places I’ve been recently where they’d tell the story just perfectly, so I recently dug out all the old slides I had, and got any stuff I was missing from Martin’s site, and I’m looking at running some scenarios past people, with the comic treatment.

There’s no simpler way to get the message across when you’re trying to highlight a particular use case and they’re a great, self-documenting way to describe a unique customer journey. More often than not, because they’re particularly good for delivering bad news, I pull together all the slides with the really scary close-ups of disgruntled customers’ faces, and add suitably appalled call-outs, to make a really heavy-handed point, but, hey, that’s ok, as long as you put a joke in, right? Those ones are generally reserved for ‘problem’ scenarios, where we know there’s something wrong, but clickthrough and omniture data doesn’t always describe the user experience. Its a kind of ‘once more with feeling’ approach to describing a problem. To prove something’s not working isn’t always enough, you have to be able to show what it means to a customer as a result, and the way I’m doing that is with the faces of customers looking, well, pissed off annoyed.

They’re not just for bad news though. Most of the characterizations are at the delighted end of the scale, verging on the ecstatic in some cases (that would be for something like the super download speed on the improved docs.sun.com or something), all the way through to Dr Spock puzzlement (not finding products on a product gateway). Some of my favorite artifacts are the customer scenes, such as the ‘overhead typing’ view, or the ‘yes, I’m still in the office at this time’ view. My very favorite, however, is the ‘cubicle farm’, which, even after working from home for 4 years, makes me twitch a little and look over my shoulder when I see it.

If I come up with anything remotely entertaining, which isn’t entertaining because I’m highlighting some disasterous product portfolio deployment or something, then I’ll share it here. Until then, I’ll just post the usual meaningless kind of nonsense.

Listening Post: Add N to (X): Barry 7’s Contraption

holy fuck

there’s really no polite way of telling your children who you’re going to see at the arts centre without a calamatous verbal outage while saying night night following a group questioning regarding who exactly I was going to see at the arts centre which meant I wouldn’t be around to say night night at bedtime when it happens to be holy f**k, so I resorted to the eric morecambe school of coughing into a fist and saying something like ‘<cough>hollyfunk’ which seemed to do the trick as they lost interest immediately and headed upstairs.

but it was indeed holy f**k (nsfw kids) I’d crawled out of the hoovering to see and having only sampled the _radiohead nude remix and the myspace tracks I was curious orange too see how they would go down on a cold norwich sunday in a converted church, which sounds ironic but isn’t really. the 37 or so of us who decided to give the support act a one-hand clap were treated to a delightful brother/sister husband/wife partner/partner act apparently known as free blood (‘from new york, usa, new york, usa’), who ambled unto the stage and pressed a button, whereupon a dr rhythm backing track from 1981 exploded through a stack and rattled the inside of my chest like spanners in an empty bronchial metal mickey and they gooned about together like the reincarnation of blancmange as a brother/sister husband/wife partner/partner act from new york usa, frotting their mikes like gibbons and after about 5 minutes clasping strangers from the assemblage and manhandling them stageward. we all kind of liked them in the end and even after a few false crescendos involving bass drum 1 and some screams we offered them the dubious courtesy of clapping for a bit and then being quite quiet as they walked off stage amongst us and straight to the bar.

being the arts centre, the warm-up act between acts is actually the headline act putting their kit together and soundchecking while we all (more than 37 of us now) talk amongst ourselves or if you’re like me, pretend to be doing something important on your mobile phone which is actually something more like updating your facebook status with ‘…is at holy f**k with the people who actually have friends’. while the sound desk isn’t looking, they suddenly decide they’re ready and quietly stumble into the set as the lights dim around us and a couple of stoners (for there are always a couple of stoners at a norwich gig) amble into your field of vision where they will mildly annoy you all night by having a good time but not paying attention.

it’s easy to make comparisons for reference, but imagine you’d collected every piece of musical hardware that had passed through your hands in the 80s (after imagining you’re that old), which would be in varying amounts, casio keyboard/samplers (lots), boss effects pedals (lots), analogues mixers and switchy things (lots), the occasional 1/4 inch tape loop, cables (lots and lots), effects racks, random electronic devices that make noises like sawtooths or the clangers, and then meet some friends with real instruments (drum & bass) that can actually play them, and then daisy chain 17 4-way adaptors and then start playing everything at the same time and record the sound of you house exploding and play it backwards through a baked bean tin with a piece of string as the drugs start working.

actually, they’re unmistakably the reincarnation of the who. I mean, they’ve got all the best bits of add (n) to x, they do the triptastic glasto endofshow chemical brothers trance pieces, but are clever enough to start at the point where everyone goes ‘yeeeeah’ and then gets mental, rather than including the boring 10 minutes of intro, they stumble over the remains of numerous analogue forebears from the 70s to the 90s, check in with the fall, and even, worryingly, sound like lemonjelly at one point, but, when it comes to it, they are the new electro-mod. or something.

they did achieve the formally unachievable by way of me dancing on one leg and nodding my head without even caring what anybody else thought and mostly I was transfixed on the drummer, who was, albeit canadian, the living embodiment of keith moon’s bastard child with john cazale, but eminently intensely watchable. connecting him, the bass player, who did a grand job of playing one note over and over and over and over until your brain bled, and the crumpled shirts of satan, on fiddling duties, there was some kind of invisible lasso threaded through their ears which was held, at the other end, by a 30-foot argonaut that was constantly jerking their heads around like a stop-frame animation as waves of electropopocalypse washed over us from the effects box of the devil himself.

a good night then.

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