Category Archives: Reference

  1. Relevance of Relevance

    Scratch any designer worth his (her) professional salt, and you will find the chief deity of his profession, the User. This User – the ubiquitous and the all pervasive phenomenon who is ‘virajman’ in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple of design – demands, drives and possesses the design practitioner and his priestcraft.

    The User also defines the sacred liturgy of the design profession – user, user profile, usage, use cases, usability, usefulness, user-centricity, user advocacy, user context, user relevance…

    Just pick the last one, Relevance. It’s something of a sacred notion – after all, you want every schema and artifact you analyze and produce as a designer to be Relevant to the User. And of course Relevance is not a thing, it’s relationship term, a kind of a kinship term, it’s not a thing that exists by itself.  Is the downgrading of the US debt rating to AA+ less or more relevant than Kate Middleton’s rumored anorexia? Throw a User (consumer of information) into the mix and only then can you talk about Relevance.

    But does this principle of Relevance have no down side to it? Alas, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Eli Pariser’s book ‘Filter Bubble – What The Internet Is Hiding From You’ explores the search and personalization algorithms used by the Internet Big Boys (Yahoos!, Googles, and Facebooks of the world) that filter information and give you what is Relevant to You (based on your personal history and past searches). This, argues Pariser, creates the phenomenon of a closed bubble arising out of the relevance paradox where the more you find some things relevant, the more you are served similar things – effectively cutting you off from alternate perspectives, ideas, opinions, practices or world views. If effect, by serving you with dishes drawn from the menu you like over and over, you are prevented from experiencing new cuisines and tastes that might (potentially) enlarge your palette and make you a better connoisseur.

    Is there an alternative? Would you always want to be served with what you know you like, or would you, once in a while, want the waiter to suggest you ‘something different’?

    Some of these Internet Big Boys have a system where the personalization algorithms can be overridden by humans (waiters!) who decide a link to a story is important enough to be served to you even if the algorithm thinks that it ‘ranks low in relevance going by user’s history’. But, of course, in this case, it is a human deciding what choices to give you. Either way, your curry is rated, ranked, curated and served hot!

    The larger question is, is this such a unique phenomenon wrought by exploding information technologies OR is this a more normal and natural paradox, a part of what we are and how we function in the world? The fact is, most things we see, do or experience – are done by choice. (I am not talking about acts of nature and coincidence here). You read a book, you watch a movie, you eat a meal, you share a photo, you discuss a topic – all out of the choices you make, from an innate sense of what is meaningful and interesting to you. This obviously precludes your inner experience from the book you haven’t read, the movie you haven’t seen or the topic you haven’t discussed. Thats’s a fact of life. Every choice you make is a tradeoff between it and the choices you haven’t made.

    But it does not mean you cannot peek outside the filter bubble, outside the algorithm, when you really want to. That too is a choice, and sometimes, it can be a stronger force than Relevance.

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  2. Good Infographic: Intelligent timelines intrigue me

    I have been working on a succinct communicative timeline to talk about Apparatus’ history. This is yet another information graphic over a chronological linearity done well. This rendition of timeline is a good mix of design and writing skills. If you do see any novel version of a timeline on the net, share it here. End of Computers

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  3. TED: Strong Women Inspire!

    Isabel Allende, a passionate writer and Paula Scher, graphic designer influenced by the politics of sixties. These women do ignite a vacant mind.

    Isabel Allende has the writers’ passion that is contagious. She is Salvador Allende’s daughter, probably grew up listening to Pablo Neruda and fled from Chile as her father was killed by Pinochet. Hear her speak at TED.

    I heard Paula Scher speak at Designyatra, Goa, India two years back and I fell in love with her. I saw her work that is emotive, political and inspiring. This is she at TED.

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  4. TED: Rives' Lyrical Origami

    My all time favorite TED talk by Rives who folds language and information to meet at points that surprises you or at times makes you wonder whether is actually there. Over to Rives.

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  5. Innovation and Apparatus: How can we help you redefine your product?

    Team Apparatus has worked with startups, product management groups and product teams to create new offerings. This post is to demystify the role of a creative team or a designer in product definition. Contemplate on the graphic below.

    Click on the image to enlarge. This image is of a product star that unites competencies to create a product idea that is useful, usable, feasible, lucrative, compelling and most often, successful.

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  6. Apple : Faith grows

    I have been an Apple user and a fan for over 15 years. The brand and products have moved on from being a cult to a larger faith. Steve Jobs is a compelling reason to buy and use more Apple products. Here he is in conversation with Walt Mosberg and Kara Swisher for Wall Street Journal.

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