The Secret of Apple Design: user-experience document

http://www.technologyreview.com/Biztech/18621/page3/

“There were three evaluations required at the inception of a product idea: a marketing requirement document, an engineering requirement document, and a user- experience document,” Norman recalls. Rolston elabo rates: “Marketing is what people want; engineering is what we can do; user experience is ‘Here’s how people like to do things.’”

I really like that idea of “a user-experience” document. Or at least the idea that the user experience – not the feature or change itself – is a documented requirement in a design. Maybe this is already implicitly part of the DCR process.

I see the user-experience as being a critical part of implementing any kind of change (not just product-related) – how do people like to do things, how do we do things now (if there is a difference) and what does this change have to do with both of those things?

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nice nytimes article about a business

A Corner Deli with International Appeal

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/03/business/smallbusiness/03zingerman.html?ei=5090&en=8ffda96a63afa3a2&ex=1335844800&adxnnl=1&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss&adxnnlx=1178731475-WoFVZHbhY5WXSRjFkn0nCQ


“Our goal in 2020 is to leave our world better than it was when we came here,” he said.

Originally saw at:
http://bobsutton.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/05/zingermans_a_ci.html


What I was most taken with, however, is that that Saginaw and Wienzweig have grown this business by focusing in the quality of their products and service, and on treating their employees very well, and treating profit as a secondary goal.

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IPCC’s mitigation report

== Highlights of the IPCC’s mitigation report ==
http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/grist/gristmill/~3/114411036/75161
(from Gristmill)

I want to highlight a few points from the IPCC’s Mitigation Report (PDF). First, even the most stringent global greenhouse gas targets can be met at a cost of a mere 0.1% of GDP per year! While the report is not explicit about when action should be taken, it does say that: In order to stabilize the concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere, emissions would need to peak and decline thereafter. The lower the stabilization level, the more quickly this peak and decline would need to occur. The Center for American Progress and I have encouraged stabilizing atmospheric CO2 concentration at 450 ppm and/or a temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius over the pre-industrial era. That said, according to one of the report’s charts (see page 22), reductions aimed to cut emissions 85% by 2050 must be initiated before 2015. And maybe sooner. According to the IPCC: Decision-making about the appropriate level of global mitigation over time involves an iterative risk management process that includes mitigation and adaptation, taking into account actual and avoided climate change damages, co-benefits, sustainability, equity, and attitudes to risk. … if the damage cost curve increases steeply, or contains non-linearities (e.g. vulnerability thresholds or even small probabilities of catastrophic events), earlier and more stringent mitigation is economically justified. Tucked into footnote 37 of the report, there’s a brief discussion of feedbacks that could certainly, and dangerously, be categorized as a non-linear, vulnerable threshold to which we are blind. The message of the report is clear. Countries must act, and soon. We can choose to stabilize the climate and still maintain prosperous economies. But we must make a financial commitment that just hasn’t materialized. We’ve been going backwards. The IPCC reports: Government funding in real absolute terms for most energy research programmes has been flat or declining for nearly two decades (even after the UNFCCC came into force) and is now about half of the 1980 level. At this point, that is unacceptable. The policies the IPCC has recommended have great potential and low cost. The world needs make the political and economic commitments to curb emissions. The time to act is now. This post was created for ClimateProgress.org, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

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eat local and “foodmiles”

Another article about food and transportation costs…

AskPablo: Foodmiles

http://www.triplepundit.com/pages/askpablo-foodmiles-002478.php

I used a cost study from UC Davis to determine the energy input versus the yield. I arrived at roughly 4.85 kg of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent units) for each kg of cherries. If we assume 500 km of transportation by semi we add 0.06 kg CO2e, or about 1.2%. If the same cherries are grown in Argentina and flown to the US (21,000 km) the emissions jump to 16.82 kg CO2e per kg of cherries, or 71.1%. Quite a difference! It is possible that the cherries would be shipped by container ship in a refrigerated compartment but then we would have to account for the refrigeration as well.

What if the cherries are dehydrated first and the transported by ship? Removing moisture from agricultural products is one way to cut back on transportation costs and emissions. Dried cherries have about 15% moisture content (vs. 75% in fresh cherries) so the CO2e from cultivation per kg of dried cherries will be higher, around 12.14 kg CO2e per kg of dried cherries. Trucking over 500 km would again add 0.06 kg CO2e, or 0.5%, but shipping by container ship over 25,000 km (more than air cargo because you can’t ship point-to-point) contributes only 0.42 kg, or 3.3%.

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philosophy of perl

From Larry Wall, creator of Perl, in 1995:

http://groups.google.com/group/comp.lang.perl.misc/msg/4ea8ddd4dfcf8a9b

* Learn it once, use it many times

You learn a natural language once and use it many times. The lesson
for a language designer is that a language should be optimized for
expressive power rather than for ease of learning. It’s easy to
learn to drive a golf cart, but it’s hard to express yourself in
one.

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a greener apple

http://www.apple.com/hotnews/agreenerapple/

Apple has been criticized by some environmental organizations for not being a leader in removing toxic chemicals from its new products, and for not aggressively or properly recycling its old products. Upon investigating Apple’s current practices and progress towards these goals, I was surprised to learn that in many cases Apple is ahead of, or will soon be ahead of, most of its competitors in these areas. Whatever other improvements we need to make, it is certainly clear that we have failed to communicate the things that we are doing well.

It is generally not Apple’s policy to trumpet our plans for the future; we tend to talk about the things we have just accomplished. Unfortunately this policy has left our customers, shareholders, employees and the industry in the dark about Apple’s desires and plans to become greener. Our stakeholders deserve and expect more from us, and they’re right to do so. They want us to be a leader in this area, just as we are in the other areas of our business. So today we’re changing our policy.

Now I’d like to tell you what we are doing to remove toxic chemicals from our new products, and to more aggressively recycle our old products.

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unrigging the game

The original article has links to the legislation that’s mentioned.

== Unrigging the game ==
http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/grist/gristmill/~3/112214530/8830
(from Gristmill)

Unrigging the game
11:29 AM
In today’s Victual Reality I discussed how a few companies dominate U.S. food production, and how their market girth weighs heavily on efforts to rebuild local-oriented, environmentally and socially responsible food networks.

Now I’d like to add a few words on what might be done to remedy the situation.

First of all, it’s important to note that heavily consolidated food markets rig the game to favor large-scale, industrial-style farming. As companies like Cargill and Tyson have grabbed more and more control over food production in the past 30 years, they’ve systematically dismantled local infrastructure and concentrated their operations in a few regions.

The withering away of local processing and distribution facilities dramatically boosts the costs of small-scale farming. The celebrated meat farmer Joel Salatin, who runs Polyface Farm in Virginia, estimates that regulations that force him to ship his cows to a distant USDA-approved processor add a dollar per pound to the retail price of his beef. Huge feedlots concentrated in places like Kansas, a beef-processing center, don’t face those costs.

I believe the local-agriculture movement — which, despite its surging popularity, still only supplies a fraction of our food needs — will be severely constrained by these factors going forward.

I can think of two policy ideas that might remedy the situation. First, we need a return to competitive markets in the food industry, and that means breaking up the food giants — or at least regulating away the advantages conferred by their girth. One step in the right direction is the Competition Bill sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). There’s a movement afoot to build the Harkin proposal into the farm bill by adding a “competition title.” That move deserves support.

But curtailing the anti-competitive practices of the giants won’t be enough rebuild local food infrastructure. Forty years of federal policy that favor their interests has given them an enormous competitive advantage that won’t be easily legislated away. The infrastructure they tore down will not reappear as if by magic. Small farmers don’t have the cash flow to finance the rebuilding of local slaughterhouses, canneries, milk processing plants, and the like. To redress the loss of such things, we need public investment, and that leads to a second policy proposal.

Henry Herrera and Katherine Mendenhall of the New York Sustainable Agriculture Working Group have come up with an elegant idea [PDF]: create a funding stream, within the farm bill, for regional and local food-infrastructure projects — indexed directly to the commodity payments now flowing to large-scale farmers who produce corn and soy for the global food (and increasingly, energy) industry.

They propose committing a dollar to infrastructure projects for every $100 now going to commodity support. Between 1995 and 2005, the federal government doled out $129 billion to growers of corn, soy, cotton, and other commodity crops. If the Herrera/Mendenhall proposal had been in place, that would have meant $129 million in investment funds for local infrastructure over that period — which would have literally amounted to a rounding error compared to the commodity payments, but given a significant boost to sustainable food.

The proposal has a certain Machiavellian appeal: No one seriously thinks that commodity payments will dry up in the 2007 farm bill, so let’s at least leverage their momentum to create funding that’s actually constructive.

How would such a program be administered? Here are Herrera and Mendenhall:

Eligible organizations will include non-profit organizations and for-profit small businesses that would institute and uphold commitments to local and regional food distribution and promotion while also maintaining transparent fair trading for all parties involved.
So in addition to adding a “competition title,” the time has come to add a “reinvestment title” into the farm bill, providing funding for infrastructure projects equal to 1 percent of commodity subsidies.

Unhappily, this idea remains on the fringes of the policy debate, and to my knowledge isn’t part of the agenda being pushed by major environmental and sustainable-ag groups. But that doesn’t mean you can’t plant its seed in the minds of policy makers now.

Please harangue your representatives about these topics as soon as possible. You can reach them here.

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