Indulging in the weather channel over the course of the few weeks to keep appraised of what appears to be a lively hurricane season, it’s impossible not to become curious as to the narrative construction of weather coverage.

Whether the weather channel has found new life in its coverage of live natural disasters, combining the science of analysis and on-location broadcasting with the individual feats of rain-soaked and wind-beaten reporters braced against howling winds as if in some modern-day version of The Tempest, remains to be seen.

Sustaining interest during live weather coverage is a daunting feat, replete with moments…


Garry Kasparov plays IBM’s Deep Blue, which plays like a human

It’s long been observed by marketers that one half of advertising money is wasted. Which half is not known and remains to be determined. Lately, this determination falls increasingly to the ever-increasing powers of computing. A combination of big data and its analysis, directed with targeted and sometimes algorithmic decision-making, promises to expose the lost opportunities in the half that remains to be mined.

This promise rests on the premise that information about individual consumers, rather than improved segmentation of markets and audiences, will provide the missing link and key to unlocking the value (and purse) still intrinsic in the…


I wrote this four years ago when I was actively working on concepts for a theory of social interaction design (SxD), or UX for social tools and experiences. The metaphor still works, but needs an update.

Screens and our relationships to them

Screens have long played a role in culture (as mediums and media) and society (as mediators of activity, communication, work, etc).

And while a cinema screen is not the same as a television, nor an iPhone the same as a laptop, these screens share properties. They share ways of presenting content; if they are phones, computers, tablets etc they share interface designs and rely…


So here’s a thought: assuming that we manage to develop chatbots and voice-based interfaces that are so smooth and seamless they seem virtually human to us, will we reenact the kinds of linguistic games with them that we do in real life?

And I don’t just mean verbal spats, word play, puns, jokes, and that kind of thing. Those are games small g. I mean games big G: the games described by the psychologists known as Transactional Analysts.

This isn’t just a thought experiment (though for now it is because we don’t yet relate to AI as we might if/when…


The Rosetta stone was a breakthrough because it permitted translation between languages

Good and successful interactions with chatbots and voice-operated devices rely on more than just a mastery of language. There’s more to typed and spoken interactions than just accurate use of language. Other features of speech and interaction come into play as well. These are already codified in some form (e.g. amazon alexa’s intents) or another. Features such as commands, requests, confirmations, cancellations, and so on.

In everyday social interactions we also have “bracketing” moves such as greetings and farewells. These inform participants as to the intensity expected of an interaction. Will it be a short interaction, a passing hello, a…


Bot-icelli. Very-similitude. To chat like a bot — or not. Is that a question worth posing?

Designers of user experiences, as UX, interaction, visual, conversational designers, have their inspirations and aspirations. In the case of designing the “UI” of conversational agents, inspirations include human and social interaction and conversation. Aspirations include transparent and seamless interaction. To a great extent the very same intentions with which designers have approached any other aspect of human-computer interaction.

But there is one potential conundrum facing the design of conversational agents. It is the use of everyday social interaction and conversation as a design goal…


On the matter of bots, tortoises, and deserts in the hot, baking sun, I think social UX or social interaction design might have a second life (!) in the design of bot and AI-based interactions. At this point it doesn’t take a blade runner to catch an errant bit of AI, but in all the discussion I’ve seen on machine learning and chat bots, the focus has been on the task of acquiring languages, building domain knowledge, and “understanding” human expression. And in the shift from solving for search (by means of answers) to performing actions (doing what the user…


Pinwheeling across the sky in a fireball of kerosene-fueled mayhem and cascading necessarily towards the fields below. Is how I imagined what might be occupying the mind of my window-seat passenger on my flight yesterday from Baltimore (BWI) to Philly.

I was seated next to a young woman strapped into a metal tube with no more than a few dozen East Coast commuters for a brief 18-minute traverse across the eastern seaboard by the pinking skies of a spring-time twilight. …


Thinkers on enterprise work technology and the future of work differ in emphasizing either the worker, or work.

It’s been interesting watching the discussion develop around the future of work, and enterprise technologies in general. Some pretty long-standing themes, dating back to the early days of computer-mediated communication, continue to this day. Does technology really make us more productive? Does more information really make us more informed, or, even, more knowledgable? Does networking result in better, thicker, and more committed relationships and knowledge sharing? Does it eliminate friction, increase transparency, engender trust?

I don’t believe we have answers to these…


Likes are acts and gestures

So here’s the thing. All likes are the same. And yet they’re not. There are likes that mean that I like something. Likes that mean I like that somebody else likes something. Likes that mean I want to be seen as having liked something. And likes that mean I want more of the same.

Then there’s how we interpret likes. Some likes mean popularity. Some mean a trend. Some mean something really meaningful (a cause). Others are superficial. Some likes suggest the start of a trend. And some are way past their prime.

Then there’s the backend. Yes, likes are…

Adrian Chan

Specialist in CX, UX, and Social Interaction Design (SxD). Longtime San Francisco resident. Gravity7.com

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