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Monthly Archives: March 2011


The Thinking Mechanism is a series of weekly posts, published on Fridays, covering the ideas The Mechanism is thinking and talking about with our peers and clients.

• Last week at SXSWi Stephen Coles, Frank Chimero, Tiffany Wardle and Jason Santa Maria presented the “Cure for the Common Font” panel, a web designer’s introduction to typeface selection. They have now made the slides, audio and comprehensive list of resources available online. Good typography is not just for print anymore.

• From The New York Times comes “today’s quiz: What company derives 96 percent of its revenue from advertising, has a video platform that is currently negotiating with the National Basketball Association, a movie studio and various celebrities, and is developing a subscription service that would be plug-and-play for publishers and consumers the world over. Time Warner? News Corporation? Viacom? Nope. Google.”  Whether they want to admit it or not, Google is turning into a very large media company, especially as they continue to lose ground to Facebook.

• And speaking of the grey lady, as they prepare to roll out their paywall there has been much discussion about how poorly implemented it is, how incomprehensibly expensive it is, and lastly, how this $40-50M investment, years in the making, has already been thwarted by 4 lines of code. We can’t help but wonder, what needs to happen for newspapers to learn that the key to successful paid digital transactions is simplicity?

• We all have our digital alliances, the computers, devices and app ecosystems we prefer, but part of progressive digital thinking requires stepping out of our comfort zones to explore everything available. We are paying very close, platform-agnostic, attention to tablets, from the ridiculous to the sublime. Via Business Week we learn ”Google says it will delay the distribution of its newest Android source code, dubbed Honeycomb, at least for the foreseeable future. The search giant says the software, which is tailored specifically for tablet computers that compete against Apple’s iPad, is not yet ready to be altered by outside programmers and customized for other devices, such as phones.” This is disappointing and very surprising. We like our iPads but we like competitive innovation more.

• And speaking of progressive digital thinking, 14 year old self-proclaimed web designer, developer and geek J-P Teti demonstrates incredible insight explaining why, coupled with the above news, 2011 will be the year of the iPad. Seriously, go read his post. Smart.

•  The heart of all things digital is the browser, even in an ever growing app world. (Go ahead, try working for an hour without touching a browser.) The past couple of weeks have brought us some very relevant browser updates. Firefox 4 was released. On the same day Chrome 11 Beta was also released with some interesting features, including use of the HTML5 speech input API, which allows you to talk to your computer and Chrome interprets it. Microsoft  released IE9 while still encouraging us to get rid of IE6 (and good riddance.) And WebKit (the engine behind Safari) continues to make their nightly builds available. Let’s hope all these releases are a sign of everyone moving towards universal standards compliance.

• And now for something a little more analog. What can you do with all those things that technology is rendering obsolete? Make amazing art of course. Next time you have some money to spare, consider this.

Continuing our weekly posts, here are the things that got us talking this week:

• MIT’s Media Lab is home to some fantastic mad scientists. Their latest project to go live is the Junkyard Jumbotron, which let’s you take any variety of devices that can display a browser and combine them to display one fully interactive image.

• Walking back to the office after a social media meeting with a client Dave uttered the highly retweetable quote “You don’t choose social media, social media chooses you.” My response, “don’t wait until social media happens to you.”

The New York Times has erected the great wall of pay around their digital content, and while they wait and see how this decision affects their business model, we would like to point them to the March 17, HBR The Daily Stat newsletter, that includes the following nugget: ”39% of people surveyed said they would feel no impact if their local newspapers shut down. 30% said it would have a minor impact, but only 28% said the impact would be major, according to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. About three-quarters of respondents to the survey of 2,251 U.S. adults said they wouldn’t be willing to pay anything for online news if their newspapers failed to survive.” The full Pew Research Center report, titled “How mobile devices are changing community information environments,” is available here.

• This post would not be complete without a mention of the recently ended SXSW Interactive. It seems that beyond all the discussions of buzzy “branded journalism,” adding “game layers” to everything and replacing ironic air quotes with ironic air hashtags, the main reason to attend this year was to be able to get a brand new iPad 2 on the day of release at Apple’s SXSW pop-up store with a minimal amount of waiting in line. Dave said it best today, SXSW has become the Burning Man of interactive, growing too big, too fast, for its own good.

• It’s iPad 2 day. It’s only being available online for a few hours and already the expected delivery is several weeks. If you want one today you have to go to a retailer beginning at 5pm. No pre-orders guarantees lines and in turn media coverage about the lines. Are you buying one? What’s your shopping strategy?

• While you wait in line to get your iPad here are 8 must-read about digital distraction and information overload you can read on your iPhone.

• We think this tweet from Microsoft said it best: “It’s not often that we encourage you to stop using one of our products, but for #IE6, we’ll make an exception:http://bit.ly/g0wt4m

The Pilcrow is one shady character.

• Project Managers of the world, have you discovered Teux Deux? It is elegant, minimal, and very useful. If you maintain daily hot lists for your team, you can use the free service by assigning accounts to each team member and updating their lists. There is also a convenient iPhone app.

Why on earth are we still using fax machines?

• And it goes without saying, the news from Japan startled us this morning. The destruction is almost incomprehensible, and the repercussions will not be fully understood for days. The Big Picture has some harrowing images. We hope all our Japanese friends and their families are safe. The Huffington Post has a comprehensive list of earthquake relief options and how to help.