Sunday, December 27, 2009

The one button that breaks Gmail's conversation presentation

The one button that breaks Gmail's conversation presentation: FORWARD.

The most difficult feature for some people to get used to in Gmail is the way it ties all emails about the same title into a single conversation type view. It is also one of the greatest features of the email client, perhaps its true differentiator.

So whats wrong with it? The issue comes when there are different people involved in each email.
When can this happen? Most commonly it happens when you forward an email to another person and then have a separate conversation shoot off from the original thread. However it could also happen just by adding people to the reply email.

Why is it broken? The card stack design pattern that Gmail applies means that these different conversations spawned from the same conversation are now mixed together without any regard for their potential differences. The only factor being used is the time facet. Visually the conversation metaphor becomes confusing.

Now, I do not know if there is a technical limitation that forces Gmail to act this way, but i do know that there is at least one feasible presentation option based on the information readily available in the email conversation today: breaking up the conversation stream in different people/group panels. That is, any time there is a different combination of people on a given email in the stream break it off into another panel. The conversations should also be presented spatially within each panel in regard to their general conversation chronological order.

All of this is probably redundant as the number of conservation, comments, thread type apps appear around the web and also as the usage of google wave starts to kick in.. but i think it is an interesting presentation/UX interaction problem that such a design pattern could be applied.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

IDEA: Pizza box with perforated slices

Here is an idea: why dont pizza places send their pizzas in boxes that have perforations in the form of a slice so that you can easily create disposable pizza plates.

  • less washing up
  • portable while still having plates
  • easier to throw away the pizza box afterwards
Doesnt matter if the pizza is sliced in the same dimensions or even if it is sliced at all.. I guess one issue would be that you would have to remove all the pizza to push out the cardboard plate.. but you could make the perforated slices on the top part of the box, that way there is no issue with the weight of the pizza perhaps breaking the perforations.

Excellent for parties, picnics and big groups.

UPDATED: my brother raised a good point about the need to put the unfinished pizza box in the fridge... oh well. :)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Multi-Person Event Photo Viewer

For a while I have been thinking about a certain idea for a product, a multi-perspective photo viewer.

Today, after attending a wedding the night before (the original idea came at a wedding), I read an article in Springwise talking about a site that gathers wedding photos from guests. Now I havent tried the product nor seen what it looks like but the title at least hints at the idea that I originally had.

The concept follows:
  • Many people at an event, each with a camera.
  • Each person's experience is different, a reflection of their perspective.
  • The only real way to get a feel for the "total" event experience would be to somewhow see all the photos of each person.

Now I can just imagine what such an interface could be and the thought of it really gets me excited. Imagine Photosynth but on a timeline, throw in an event guest list with a sprinkle of Facebook connect for identity. Obviously video needs to be supported as well.

One really important facet here is PERSPECTIVE. The apps main navigation should be the concept of perspective. There should be a way to easily move between people's perspectives and ideally, as per photosynth, be able to see the same event (perhaps based on time) from different perspectives. I say TIME because it is not necesarily true that all the people at an event would be shooting photos of the same thing at the same time (which sometimes removes the ability to do pure photo stiching).

There would have to be a spatial view as well. Especially because in the same event there may be different spatial clusters. As geotagging of media becomes more prevailant this no longer seems far fetched.

When you add TAGGING and facebook into the mix one could imagine that I could express the experience, say a collection of photos, of different groups at an event, eg: tables at a wedding, and connect them via a cross over metafor: say the bride is in a photo from each of the collections then as a user I could use the bride as the portal between the two collections.

While doing the mockups I realised how valuable it is to have not just the coordinates of where the photo was taken but also the direction. This is similiar to the advances in Aumented Reality browsers. So we could think of this as a MULTI-PERSON RECORDED AUMENTED REALITY VIEWER.

The interesting thing here is that I could use this now as my presentation architecture.

Eg: I have a subject that both A and B have taken a photo of around the same time. I know this because the line of site of the shot interesect based on the coordinates (GPS) and direction (compass) of A and B.

One limitation here is that we dont know the depth of field of the photo so theoretically they could still be shotting at different subjects.

Now imagine that C was taking a photo of B at that exact same time converting B into the subject from a different perspective. I could visually display this and allow the user to move through these spatial and time related media in a representation that is similar to the physical world.

I could definately see in the future Facebook give the ability to add your album to an event which automatically adds the content to this multiperson event viewer.

Facebook Photo Search

Today I found myself with the need to get my hands on a photo that contained two friends of mine. The first thing I thought of was to go on to Facebook where I knew I had tagged both of them in numerous photos together. To my surprise there was no way (that I know of) of doing this today.

I should be able to go on Facebook and search my photos for photos that have specific people.

For example: SEARCH photos of Person1 AND Person2

This functionality will become even more usefull with the autotagging applications that are starting to be released.

I know that this can be done because when you are looking at photos of a person Facebook gives you the option of viewing photos of that person and you in the same photo.

Why would Facebook not offer such a functionality? cost of processing? Does Google's Picasa already have this? How should a Facebook photo search look like or function?

UPDATE: this already exists and works just as expected. As Nick O'Niel from just told me this feature is currently a prototype and you can add it using this link: