Thursday, August 13, 2009


There was this User eXperience meet-up last night in London which I missed, but did see some tweets from. The tweets were discussing content-scaling, which must have been a topic: how to repurpose and reformat the same content as the user goes from web to TV to mobile. And maybe it was because I was just coming back with a full stomach from going to a Curry place in Shoreditch with deliiiiiiiiicious food, but all the tweets about content made me think that approaching 'content' as a generic concept to adapt to situations makes about as much sense as talking that way about 'food'.

Food is a great big huge world of items, but its expressions are very bound to the time and place and experience the eater is in. Every moment and activity has its own food, and nobody treats food as if moving it from one space and time to the other is a technology question.

-- "So we make all these four course meals with soup and a cheese platter, how do we make our skills useful when our fine-dining consumer goes to the movies? A bag with compartments?"
-- "OK, we're giving them fries, burger, and a shake in 5 minutes or less when they come into our joint, but how the hell do we manage to keep this consumer when they are at a cocktail party?"
-- "This tub of microwave popcorn with real butter we sell for TV watching, can we scale it for commuters? Drivers in a car?"
-- "Marathon-runners really enjoy our gel-packs. Surely there's a way to extend our brand loyalty to their other leisure moments."

Nobody expects these questions to be answered with one scaling technology, or a complicated set of heuristics, or even a single philosophy. Yet in the mobile UX world many smart thinkers actually do try this when approaching the problem of how the astonishing amount of types of content we have all created now over the years needs to be transformed to be seen on a tablet or phone or computer screen or TV.

It is not only the context of the user that changes during their day, although 'context' is what a lot of UX practitioners get stuck on, but, more encompassing than context, it is their needs and desires that changes, tied to where they are and what they are doing. I don't want a Thanksgiving Turkey dinner at 4PM on my workday even if you could deliver it in a way I could carry to work and eat surreptitiously at my desk, I simply want my tea cake. Or whatever 4PM snack you are into.

So yes, maybe the content of our hard disks should be looked at as ingredients that need to be cooked with specifically for every time, place, and need, instead of seen as meals that simply need to be transformed 'right', and all the talk of transcoders and scalers are just complete doom that will at best serve bland, mediocre, ill-fitting media experiences that seem to miss the point, or at worst try to pack a three course meal in chewing gum -- and we all saw how that ended up for Willy Wonka's prototype tester.

And I felt I was really on to something deep here. Or maybe it was the chicken Tikka-Massala talking.