one man went to mow

In the long winter months, when nothing grows, I forget how much I hate mowing the grass.

They say wood warms you twice, once when you chop it and once when you burn it. I suppose grass is a bit like that; it breaks your back once when you mow it and once when you rake the cut grass. But the mowing is worst – an hour bent double, this must be how it felt rowing a Roman galley. Surely it is not beyond the wit of modern science to develop a mower that cuts grass when the handle is held more than 18 inches off the ground?

If I were an ancient Greek and cursed in Hades for offending Zeus, or a Catholic looking forward to 100 years in purgatory for my sins, surely this would be my fate: to mow the Elysian Fields while the Demi-Gods play.

mobile design workshop

A couple of weeks ago I attended a mobile design workshop at microsoft labs in Cambridge. Great 2 days … people from academia and industry (and no not just MS, also Google, Yahoo, Sony, Nokia, …!)
Alan in Helmet

Most of the time was spent splitting into small working groups then coming back together for plenaries. I took part in groups discussing:

(1) tools to make it easier for those in developing countries to design mobile phone applications that suit their needs [session notes], rather than simply passing on applications and designs fitted for very different needs and infrastructure. During the discussion various applications of phone technology were cited that were completely different form those we would expect in the UK, US or Europe, but fitted the situations of people. These included using the address book as a ‘who owes what’ list for a trader … the ‘telephone numbers’ were in act amounts of money! This use of ‘ancillary’ parts of the phone rather than simply being a glorified communication device. Although he context of this was Africa, it also echoes studies of domestic phone use by Malay women in the UK by Fariza (who has just had her PhD viva :-)). She found alarm, calculator and things like that, at least as important as phone & text for the people she studied.

(2) ‘mindfulness’ and mobile phones … and of course the fact that normally they do the opposite interupting etc. … but just to not make us all agree too much, I said that mindfulness sounded like we should all become like rabbits; it is the looking forward and back, with all its stress, that is one of the things that make us human.

(3) task/data oriented interaction … escaping from the ‘application’. This was particularly relevant to me given onCue at aQtive was in this space as are Snip!t and work on TIM project with colleagues at Rome, Athens and recently new collaborators Madrid … with whom I had a short but lovely visit after CHI.

Task session