Talk of the death of the World Wide Web seems to be a popular subject at this moment. I like the idea. As I work with my array of portable devices, I’m enjoying apps that focus my attention and deliver targeted (limited) content. The migration of people from general-purpose computers to dedicated appliances was predicted years ago by none other than the man most quoted in this column, Donald Norman. Norman wrote in the Invisible Computer in 1999, “The notion that a product with fewer features might be more usable, more functional, and superior for the needs of the customer is considered blasphemous” but that is just what is happening in the iDevice/apps world.
When I’m at home, I’m much more likely to read blogs on my iPad than on my laptop. The iPad is just designed better for casual reading even though they both have the capability to serve up reading material. Wired Magazine editor Chris Andersen said on The Charlie Rose Show recently, “If you look at a session time on our website, three minutes is a good session time…when you look at the stats on our iPad app just three months into it, we’re looking at 40 minutes, an hour, or even longer [sessions].” Through these limited function apps we may be gaining back the focused experiences that have been so scarce recently. If we were able to apply that kind of information delivery to purpose-designed spaces such as the classroom or conference room, we may be able to refocus on the agenda instead of falling down the familiar meeting “rabbit hole.”
Spaces have had a long head start evolving toward special purpose use over the last several thousand years. Architecture once was very general purpose (most mud huts initially did not have separate dining rooms, I suspect). Today we expect to have meetings in the Conference Room, and a meal in the Lunch Room. A current problem with our workspaces is that many of them contain that old single-screen multipurpose, multitasking computer that can open a rabbit hole in a perfectly good conference room—one where you start in one direction and end up in an entirely different place at the end of the meeting.
Imagine a room where the information available in the room is more static, informative, and tailored for the content of your meeting. Similar to a GPS-enabled car that knows where you are and where you want to go, an “information-ready” room could tailor the data in your space to the goals of your team. First you might add a few tag words and link a couple of files to the reservation form on your Outlook calendar. When you arrive at the conference room for your meeting, the displays on each wall would be purpose driven: a schedule wall, an action item wall, and a mind map or idea wall might wrap around the conference table. If it is a brainstorming meeting, the fourth “app wall” could display ideation tools like Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies. Each wall might have a limited number of apps that could be run to allow for customization for different types of meetings.
In the conference room today we waste a huge amount of time either getting distracted or flipping back and forth between discrete views of important content. We simply lose the ability to make connections between all the bits of information we’ve seen during a meeting. The goal of the multiple, persistent display room is to maintain view of information that will let you better comprehend the complexity of your goals. No more ALT-TABing back and forth between your Gantt chart and the revenue projections— multiple dedicated views of your data would be visible, dynamic, and would constantly inform your conversation and decision-making. In the “information ready” meeting room, multiple “app walls” would paradoxically provide more information and better focus. The evolution of multitasking computers to monotasking appliances has just begun, but I welcome a return to a more focused experience.
Paul Chavez (email@example.com) is the director of systems applications for Harman Pro Group. He is a usability evangelist and a futurologist. Chavez has designed a variety of audiovisual systems ranging from themed attractions to super yachts. He has also taught and written on the topics of interaction design, audiovisual design, and networking.
CCS Is Growing Fast
SCOTTSDALE, AZ—CCS was recognized by Inc. magazine as a top growth company for 2010. CCS made the publication’s Inc. 5000 list, which ranks America’s fastest growing private companies. Founded in 1991, CCS was started by a husband and wife team and has grown into one of the largest AV integrators in the U.S. with more than 450 employees and sales offices in 13 states. This is the third consecutive year the company has made the list.
FSR Helps Local Children
WOODLAND PARK, NJ—FSR recently participated in United Way of Passaic County’s “Backpacks for Kids,” a program that collects supplies for children in Passaic County whose families cannot afford to purchase them. The objective is to send students back to school with the tools they need to succeed. FSR donated 60 backpacks, several dozen composition pads, crayon boxes, and erasers.
VBrick Awarded U.S. Patent
WALLINGFORD, CT—VBrick Systems’ real-time video compression technology has been awarded U.S. Patent No. 7,751,482. The patent recognizes VBrick’s novel encoding algorithms used during the compression of streaming video that enable the production of high quality images for the viewer. This patented technology powers VBrick’s integrated suite of H.264 solutions for the creation, delivery, and consumption of live or on-demand IP video streaming for enterprise customers.
GDI Distributes X2O Media
MONTREAL, QC, CAN—X2O Media has signed a distribution agreement with Graphics Distribution, Inc. (GDI). Under the agreement, GDI will provide distribution and sales support functions for X2O’s Xpresenter Xe Series of standalone digital signage systems in the U.S.