frank's blog

…On The Fear Of Failure – [Video]

Posted in conference, design, inspiration by aldorf on August 4, 2011

Milton Glaser – on the fear of failure.

Watch Walin Ollins, Stefan Sagmeister, Paul Coelho, Rei Inamoto and others answering the same question at Berghs’ Exhibition ’11 vimeo channel.

The GOAB Concept – Integrating TV Into Your Digital Ecosystem

Posted in film, ideas, Media by aldorf on April 19, 2011

Interesting to see how we define and describe concepts in times of merging technology. Syzygy says it’s a new TV experience concept. To me it’s more taking the focus off TV and connecting it with all your other devices. Your TV becomes part of the already existing ecosystem of mobile digital tools and is one of many media surfaces. An opportunity to create more interactive content and keeping the fixed mounted screen in your living room on and alive. Reminds me of another great example by BERG, London.

The Internet And How It Effects Our Brain

Posted in ideas, web by aldorf on August 27, 2010
Cover of "The Shallows: What the Internet...

Cover via Amazon

An experiment of UCLA professor Gary Small showed that web surfers brain activity is far more extensive. Particular in areas of the prefrontal cortex associated with problem solving and decision-making.

Small concluded, “the current explosion of digital technology not only is changing the way we live and communicate, but is rapidly and profoundly altering our brains.”

When we go online we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, distract thinking and superficial learning. The Internet is turning us into shallower thinkers and changing the structure of our brain.

In the 1980’s people thought the introduction of hyperlinks would strenghten critical thinking, enable us to switch easily between different viewpoints – a technology of liberation.

But because it disrupts concentration it weakens comprehension. A study from 1989 showed that readers tended just to click around and could not remember what they had and had not read.

People, who read linear text comprehend more, remember more, and learn more than those who read hyperlinked text. It took the hypertext readers longer to read the document and found it confusing.

Whenever a link appears, your brain has at least make the choice not to click, which is itself distracting.

And more recent research suggests that links surrounded by images, videos, and advertisements could be even worse.

In a study text-only viewers answered significantly more questions correctly. They found the presentation more interesting, more educational, more understandable, and more enjoyable.

It’s single-minded and we can transfer information into our long-term memory that is essential to the creation of knowledge and wisdom.

While reading the information is flowing into our working memory. When the load exceeds, we are unable to retain the information or to draw connections with other memories. We can’t translate the new material into conceptual knowledge.

Numerous studies show that we read faster as we go online.

Problem is that many different kinds of media coming at us simultaneously.

Office workers often glance at their inbox 30 to 40 times an hour. And every time we shift our attention, the brain has to reorient itself. Increasing the likelihood that we’ll overlook or misinterpret important information.

But we want to be interrupted. Each interruption brings us a valuable piece of information. The neverending stream of new information also plays to our natural tendency to overemphasize the immediate. we crave the new even when we know it’s trivial.

We accept the loss of concentration, focus, and fragmentation of our attention. We rarely stop to think that it might actually make more sense just to tune it all out.

Web browsing strengthens brain functions related to fast-paced problem-solving, particular when it requires spotting patterns in a welter of data. But it would be a serious mistake to conclude the Web is making us smarter.

Patricia Greenfield explains “every medium develops some cognitive skills at the expense of others. The development of visual-spatial skills is weakening deep processing.”

“By including the use of a new medium, we end up with a different brain. As we multitask online, we are training our brain to pay attention to the crap” (Michael Merzenich, pioneer of the field of neuroplasticity)

The problem is that skimming is becoming our dominant mode of thought.

In a metaphorical sense, we are evolving from cultivators of personal knowledge into hunters and gatherers in the electronic data forest. We seem fated to sacrifice much of what makes our minds so interesting.


First thoughts after reading:

1) That’s what I like about the iPad. You are focused on one thing. There is no multitasking. That seems to me is a benefit and big advantage. It forces you to stick to one task.

2) Do not stop reading books!

3) Blogs and tweets repeat the same knowledge. Makes sense, so we have more chances to take the information in.

4) What is with people who will grow up just reading online sources and don’t know text without hyperlinks at all?

5) I will continue reading both, offline/ linear and online/ hyperlinked

6) Everyone has the choice, that skimming is not your dominant mode of thought.


(adapted from The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr, discussed in Wired 6/2010.) – Usergenerated Trend Lists

Posted in web by aldorf on August 20, 2010 is a site for those who need to determine how popular any concept is over another at any moment in time. On the site, anybody can either check already-existing trend polls between current concepts, or suggest a trend poll himself in case he has caught wind of something right before the rest got wise. Of course, the user might just want to know something very concrete that has got nothing to do with the degree of current popularity of a concept, but rather with its universal acceptance or perception.

What they say: “ is an online, user generated trend list that you can access from any device which has an internet connection. Everything on is submitted by our community. Once a trend poll has started, other people see it and vote what they like more.”

It is an entertaining way to find out which concepts are more popular among the public at large. Less useful but entertaining. Looks like virtually anything can be compared.

An Argument Against Disruptive Technologies

Posted in blog, ideas, Media, web by aldorf on April 22, 2010

(by Jason Cohen, an angel investor and the founder of Smart Bear Software. This story originally appeared on his blog.)

I remember “disruptive” when it was called “paradigm shift.” That phrase died during the tech-bubble along with “portal” and “think outside the box,” yet the concept has returned. Don’t follow along.

Paradigm Shift Cartoon

When I get pitched — usually by someone raising money — that they “have something disruptive,” a little part of me dies. You should be worrying about making something useful, not how disruptive you can be.

“Disruptive” is the in-vogue word for the opposite of “incremental improvement.” A disruptive product causes such a large market shift that entire companies collapse (the ones who don’t “get it”) and new markets appear.

Disruptive is fascinating, disruptive changes the world, disruptive makes us think. Disruptive also sometimes generates billions of dollars, which is why venture capitalists have always loved it and always will.

But disruptive is rare and usually expensive. It’s hard to think of disruptive technologies or products that didn’t take many millions of dollars to implement. Most of us don’t have access to those resources, and many of us don’t care, because we’d rather work on an idea we actually understand and can build ourselves, an idea that might make us a living and be useful to people.

There’s nothing wrong with incremental improvement. What’s wrong with doing something interesting, useful, new, but not transcendental? What’s wrong with taking a known problem with a known market and just doing it better or with a fresh perspective or with a modern approach? Do you have you create a new market and turn everyone’s assumptions upside down to be successful? Should you?

1.  It’s hard to explain the benefits of disruption.

Have you tried to explain Twitter someone? Not the “140 characters” part — the part about why it’s a fundamental shift in how you meet and interact with people?

Hasn’t the listener always responded by saying, “I don’t need to know what everyone had for lunch. Who cares? What’s next, ‘I’m taking a dump?'” They don’t get it, right? But it’s hard to explain.

There are ways to elucidate the utility of Twitter, but even the good ones are lengthy and require listeners with patience and open minds — two attributes in short supply.

“It’s hard to explain” should not be a standard part of your sales pitch. “You just need to try it” and “trust me” don’t cut it. That may be OK for Twitter — today — but what about the 100 other social-networking-slash-link-sharing networks that didn’t survive? Ask them about selling intangible benefits.

2.  It’s hard to sell disruption, because people don’t want to be disrupted.

If you’re reading this you’re probably more open to new ideas and new products than most, because you’re inventing a new product, starting a company, or you’re just ruffled because I’m pissing on “disruptive” and you’re looking for nit-picky things to argue with me about.

But most people are creatures of habit. They don’t want their lives turned upside down. They launch into a tirade of obscenities if you just rearrange their toolbar. When they hear about a new social media craze they cringe in agony, desperately hoping it’s a passing fad and not another new goddamn thing they’ll be aimlessly paddling around in for the next decade.

Change is hard, so a person has to be experiencing real pain to want change. Selling a point-solution for a point-problem is easier than getting people to change how they live their lives. Identifying specific pain points and explaining how your software addresses those is easier than trying to tap into a general malaise and promising a better world.

3.  Most technology we now consider “disruptive” wasn’t conceived that way.

Google was the 11th major search engine, not the first. Their technology proved superior, but “a better search engine” was hardly a new idea. In retrospect we say that Google transformed how people find information, and further, how advertising works on the Internet.

Disruptive in hindsight, sure, but the genesis was just “incrementally better”than the 10 search engines that came before.  (Or 18.)

Scott Berkun gives several other examples in a recent BusinessWeek article. He highlights the iPod — an awesome device, but not the first of its kind. Rather, there were a bunch of crappy devices that sold well enough to prove there was a market, but no clear winners. Here an innovation in design alone was enough to win the market. Not inventing new markets, not innovative features, not even improving on existing features like sound quality or battery life — just a better design, unconcerned about “disrupting” anything else.

Setting your sights on being disruptive isn’t how quality, sustainable companies are built. Disruption, like expertise, is a side-effect of great success, not a goal unto itself.

4.  The disruptors often don’t make the money.

The construction of high-speed Internet fiber backbones and extravagant data centers fundamentally changed how business is conducted world-wide both between businesses and consumers, but many of the companies who built that system went bankrupt during the 2000 tech bubble, and those who managed to survive have still not recovered the cost of that infrastructure. They were the disruptors, but they didn’t profit from the disruption.

Disruptive technology often comes from research groups commissioned to produce innovative ideas but unable to capitalize on them. Xerox PARC invented the fax machine, the mouse, Ethernet, laser printers, and the concept of a “windowing” user interface, but made no money on the inventions. AT&T Bell Labs invented Unix, the C programming language, wireless Ethernet, and the laser, but made no money on the inventions.

Is it because disruptors are “before their time,” able to create but not able to hold out long enough for others to appreciate the innovation? Is it because innovation and business sense are decoupled? Is it because “version 1” of anything is inferior to “version 3,” and by the time the innovator makes it to version 2 there are new competitors — competitors who don’t bear the expense of having invented version 1, who have silently observed the failures of version 1, and can now jump right to version 3?

“Why” is an interesting question, but the bottom line is clear: Disruption is rarely profitable.

5.  Simple, modest goals are most likely to succeed, and most likely to make us happy.

It’s not “aiming low” to attempt modest success.

It’s not failure if you “just” make a nice living for yourself. Changing the world is noble, but you’re more likely to change it if you don’t try to change everything at once.

I made millions of dollars at Smart Bear with a product that took an existing practice (peer code review) and solved five specific pain points (annoyances and time-wasters). Sure it wasn’t worth a hundred million dollars, and it didn’t turn anyone’s world inside-out, but it enjoys a nice place in the world and it is incredibly fulfilling to see people happier to do their jobs with our product than without it.

Had I tried to fundamentally change how everyone writes software, I’m sure I would have failed.

I made less money personally at ITWatchDogs, but the company was profitable and sold for millions of dollars. We took a simple problem (when server rooms get hot, the gear fails) and provided a simple solution (thermometer with a web page that emails/pages you if it’s too hot). There were many competitors, both huge (APC with $1.5 billion market cap), mid-sized (NetBotz with millions in revenue and funding), and small (sub-$1m operations like us). We had something unique — an inexpensive product that still had 80% of the features of the big boys — but nothing disruptive.

Had we tried to fundamentally change how IT departments monitor server rooms, I’m sure we would have failed.

There’s nothing wrong with modesty. Modest in what you consider “success,” and modest in what you’re trying to achieve every day:

My daughter convinced me that insisting something be Deeply Meaningful With Purpose can sometimes suck the joy from it.  —Kathy Sierra

Of course it’s wonderful that disruptive products exist, improving life in quantum leaps. And it’s not wrong to pursue such things! But neither is it wrong to have more modest goals, and modest goals are much more likely to be achieved.

You must have your own thoughts on this subject!

Yellow’s Treehouse Restaurant

Posted in architecture, ideas, Media by aldorf on January 15, 2010

A real restaurant ten metres high in a redwood tree has been completed. Stunning design is by Peter Eising of Pacific Environment Architects. The treehouse will be availbale for hire as a function venue. Latest updates on the Official Website.

Why Didn’t I Think Of That?

Posted in ideas by aldorf on December 1, 2009

From another blog:

One day in June, Scott Amron came home and tossed his keys on the kitchen table. Then he paused, eyeing his pocket-jinglers, and had a Hudsucker-ish inspiration: Why not combine the key and the key ring? Amron makes a living turning far-out concepts into workable prototypes for outfits like Oxo and Polder Home Tools, so he rendered a design and posted it on his Web site, Within a day the sound of head-slapping had reverberated across the Net. Within a week he was in touch with a manufacturer. Within a month he had more than 25,000 preorders for his key-plus-ring, which can be cut to fit almost any front door in the US. Only one problem: The design he posted used his own front-door key as a model; a resourceful thief would have no trouble making a house call. “I had to change my locks,” Amron says. Small price to pay for an idea everyone wishes they had thought of first.

And a lot more at

Agent Of Change

Posted in ideas by aldorf on September 8, 2009

Stop Being an Ad Agency and Start Being an Agent of Change – Agency News – Advertising AgeThink more about Business Ideas than Ad Campaigns. Stop being an agency and start being an agent of change. Wayne Arnold is on to something here…read the full article at

Agent Of Change

Posted in ideas by aldorf on September 8, 2009

Think more about Business Ideas than Ad Campaigns. Stop being an agency and start being an agent of change. Wayne Arnold is on to something here…read the full article at

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