Of User Experiences

Two quick notes this morning — in part to continue to hammer home the idea that the humanities continue to need to reframe our thinking in terms of the user experience:

The first is to point out that there is running, all this year, [“52 weeks of UX.”](http://52weeksofux.com/) Subscribe and you get an e-mail once a week.

The second is that the [Y Combinator](http://ycombinator.com/rfs6.html) has just released its latest request for proposals and it’s all about the iPad:

> Most people think the important thing about the iPad is its form factor: that it’s fundamentally a tablet computer. We think Apple has bigger ambitions. We think the iPad is meant to be a Windows killer. Or more precisely, a Windows transcender. We think Apple foresees a future in which the iPad is the default way people do what they now do with computers (and some other new things).
Programmers may never want a computer they don’t control, but ordinary people just want something cheap that works. And that’s how the iPad will seem to them. Many will never make a conscious decision to switch. They’ll get an iPad as well, then find they use their Windows machine less and less. When it dies they won’t replace it.

> Will this future happen? It could. And if it does it will bring big changes. There will need to be iPad alternatives for all the things people now do on PCs. That could mean more than just replacing all the desktop software, because there may be things PC users now do with web apps that might be better done with native iPad apps.

> Plus like any new platform the iPad will allow new types of applications that don’t have any present day analogues. And no one knows now what most of them will be. Only people who become iPad developers will even think of these ideas, just as only microcomputer developers were in a position to think of the spreadsheet. Education and games may be areas where there are a lot of new ideas.

> One particularly interesting subproblem is how to introduce iPads into big companies. This will probably have to be done by stealth initially, as happened with microcomputers. They’ll have to be introduced as something individuals use, and which doesn’t really count as a computer and thus can’t be vetoed by the IT department. Don’t worry about this; it’s just a little tablet computer.

The Future of Content

[Paul Graham][pg] is proof positive that usually the best writers are some of the best thinkers. (We have done ourselves a terrible disservice by separating the two, but that is for another time.) Not only is Graham one of the best essayists at work today, he is also someone who knows how to find solutions to problems. Witness his most recent challenge:

> RFS 1: The Future of Journalism

> Newspapers and magazines are in trouble. We think they will mostly die, because we think we know what will replace them, and it is too far from their current model for them to reach it in time.

> And yet people still need at least some of what they do. You can’t have aggregators without content. So what will the content site of the future look like? And how will you make money from it? These questions turn out to be very closely related. Just as they were for print media, initially. The reason newspapers and magazines are dying is that what they do is no longer related to how they make money from it. In fact, most journalists probably don’t even realize that the definition of journalism they take for granted was not something that sprang fully-formed from the head of Zeus, but is rather a direct though somewhat atrophied consequence of a very successful 20th century business model.

> What would a content site look like if you started from how to make money—as print media once did—instead of taking a particular form of journalism as a given and treating how to make money from it as an afterthought?

> (The good news is, we think the writing will actually end up being better.)

> Groups applying to work on this idea should include at least one person who can write well and rapidly about any topic, one or more programmers who are good at statistics, data mining, and making sites scale, and someone who’s reasonably competent at graphic design. These functions can of course be combined, and in fact it’s even better if they are. Ex-Googlers would be particularly well suited to this project.

[pg]: http://paulgraham.com/