2nd Web and Consumer Trends

The February 2012 Trendwatching.com briefing predicts an emerging consumer trend, “Point-Know-Buy,” which is driven by mobile technologies, massive visual cues, & augmented reality.

Using web-enabled smart phones, users will be able to collect digital information that is otherwise not available in the plain, unconnected physical reality.  Then, users can potentially add to that virtual body of knowledge or make an on-the-spot purchase of that item.  I believe Consumer Trends is correct – there are signs of this emergence all around. See their report from the link above for examples of this idea in use.

It makes me wonder if the potential popularity of devices like Google’s “X glasses” (with web-connected Heads Up Display built into the lens) and the proliferation of smart phone (for now) apps will eventually force the deployment of a 2nd Web.  This is not a Web 2.0, but a 2nd Web, built parallel to or on top of the backbone of the 1st Web, which is to say, built on top of the Internet.  The thought is a little science-fictiony, but are we not moving very quickly beyond the utility of the simple hyperlinking that HTTP brought us? I’m talking about massive personal data storage and transfer needs, GPS tracking, motion accelerometers, “big data” analysis requirements, and power grid connectivity.   This is much bigger than what Tim Berners-Lee could have envisioned when he was coding out a way to quickly share references between research papers.  Surely, there is a strain on the system caused by its lack of ability to scale to current use?

There are calls for a “shadow web” that operates alongside the public web. I mention that only to say that folks are discussing the feasibility of the concept, albeit for other reasons than what I am proposing.

The web has transformed our lives – our banking, dating, food-ordering, & baby-face sharing.  While we know sort of what happens when a country turns it off, we don’t really know what happens when it grows beyond its bounds.

Thanks for streaming season 3 of Breaking Bad through Netflix to my web-enabled TV.  And thanks for letting me pay my City of Pittsburgh parking ticket online last month (not so happy about the technology fee though?).  Thanks for the Groupon to Sun Penang – I saved $11!  And thanks for letting me order dog food from Amazon and having it delivered to my house each month by UPS. That is so awesome cause really I just have to click one button for all that dog food goodness to happen.  Thanks for all that, and so much more.  I feel guilty even asking, but what’s next, Interwebs?

The web is no longer a nascent technology – it fuels a global economy.  But it will run out of legroom and it will be forced to change.  As we want more of a meshed experience between our reality and an augmented LAYAR, we will help nudge it into the next web.  I just wonder what that will be.


Sweet Phone for an iPhone

I’d love to have one of these items sitting around the house. This is from Etsy and I’d buy it, except that it costs $195. That is a handsome price for the luxury of necking with an old-school cradle. Is it worth it?

My moms had an actual rotary phone in her house up until last year. Using it was really satisfying. The rotary dial was slow, each number required patience as the wheel clicked back around to home from where ever you released it. The handset was really heavy and felt solid against my ear. The sound was warm and full. It is so different from the experience of using a cell phone or using the lightweight plastic wireless home phones.

I often wonder why people talk into their cell phones like they are sliding fresh oysters into their mouths. You know the style: where they hold the phone to their mouth like they are talking into a walkie talkie, and when they are done talking they put it up to their ear like a regular phone? Is it because they do not trust that the person on the other end is going to hear them unless they put the phone microphone right up to their mouth? I’ve read that people use their cell phones this way because to keep from inadvertently hanging up on people (think: really thick hair or earrings?). I think it is simply because cell phones, for all their micro-portability and conveniently light weight frames, are just too small for an honest, ergonomically fulfilling talking experience.

using a cell phone like a walkie talkie
using a cell phone like a walkie talkie

Maybe liking an old-style cradle and handset like this is simply nostalgia. When the day comes that it is common for our cell phone technology to be woven into our jackets or other clothing, and we have no physical object to interface with when talking on them (i.e., we are just talking into thin air, sans visible ear piece or mouthpiece, will we still miss the heavy rotary phone and cradle? Or will we then long for the nostalgic “heft” of an old iPhone4?

Samantha Warren’s Website

This post really captures a great idea for communicating with a customer on potential web designs and plans.  I heard the writer speak at a conference on this very subject, Style Tiles.  The joke was that saying it was a true test of one’s Pittsburghese – this is only funny if you have heard Pittsburgh’s peculiar accent.

The gist is that we serve clients with a tool to establish a “visual vocabulary” so that the designer and client can communicate more effectively, without missing any assumptions that may be in either’s head.  They fill a void between mood boards and iterative comps.  They are a starting point for the team discussion about the visual elements

Check out the post on Samantha Warrens Website:

SOPA Protest Today – Political Protest Tomorrow?

Google’s homepage rolled out it’s SOPA/PIPA protest today with a “blackout band” across the legendary Google logo. The homepage also links to an explanation of the protest, with a form to sign a petition against them. Hundreds of other website homepages are taking part in the protest with similar “blackout” bands and links to petitions or other directions for contacting government representatives.

it is impressive to see campaigns roll out like this across the Internet. I am reminded of why the Internet still has legs at times like these. It isn’t just a “liberal media” cause or vague dissident youth movement. It is a movement of major US corporations, entrepreneurs, and business investors banding together to protest pending legislation. That is some pretty heavy stuff, considering that it wasn’t really even possible 15 or 20 years ago.

It isn’t as significant, in the short term, as the use of social media to herald and organize the “Arab Spring” protests of 2010 in the Middle East, but it shows that this type of movement is indeed still possible within the US. While this particular instance is driven by corporations and big money venture capitalist, it could be the BETA version for a citizens’ protest that arises later in this election cycle.

Come November 2012, people in the US will be disgusted by the money spent by both presidential candidates (which will probably top $2Billion total). People will be disgusted by the amount of money spent by the SuperPACS (which may not be publicly disclosed by the PACS but will be inferred from watchdog organizations – see Democracy 21 & The Campaign Legal Center). Republicans will be disgusted with the “entitlement society” that they fear Obama is building (or whatever the fear-mongering cry happens to be this fall). Democrats will be disgusted with the fear-mongering Republicans (or whatever the he-said, finger-pointing, it-ain’t-fair griping that Democrats decide to stick with this fall). I, for one, am already disgusted with the things allowed to be said during the ongoing Republican primaries. I can imagine how bad the actual campaign will get once it is full on, all stops pulled. Who knows, maybe the mounted disgust will turn into politically-motivated web protests that significantly impact our government, going beyond the typical street parties chanting “throw the bums out”.

Democracy is the voice of the people in action. The Internet is an incredibly powerful vehicle for the voice of the people to gear up, swell in volume and number, and be heard (as well as for corporate voices, federal voices, etc). I am really expecting The People and The Internet to converge this fall in a dramatic fashion that marks a new shift in US governance policies. We shall see! I doubt we will have an Arab Spring of our own in the sense that there is an overthrow, per se. However, there might be troops in the streets of DC to keep the peace – not just police, but national guard or something.

This is not a “wish”. It is a prediction. Weariness over unemployment, wars, terrorism, and endless political bickering, finger pointing and strife will merge with the fervor of the election year energy and compel some sort of internet-led citizen actions. If this does transpire, it will be interesting to see which mouthpieces latch on. Will it be a Ron Paul figure? How about an entirely politically polarizing and self-interested visage a la Sarah Palin? I dunno. I believe the people of the United States have great potential and great possibilities ahead of them and they will sieze those. I hope the government comes along for the ride. If not, the people will cast it aside.

Web Communications Group Logos

Red Tree LogoAnt LogoWCG Logo

Logos – Web Communications Group

I worked with Bon’s Eye, a team from North Carolina, to develop the logo for my consulting company.

I really wanted to integrate two concepts:

  1. ants and
  2. a tree with thick branches or roots.

The iterative process with Bon’s Eye brought several really great finalists, but in the end I ended up deciding on a variation of the 3rd logo seen here, which is a brown blocked with negative, white roots, and green title text to the right.

The emphasis is that we work on what lies beneath your homepage’s visuals. We work on the mechanics and structure of a website, so the roots metaphor works well.

In the end, I went with the variations below: