IQ, IQ & CI.

An article in the Times earlier this week on IQ and how we have apparently leveled off in increasing our intelligence was profoundly disturbing.

“We are about as smart as we’re going to get, says IQ pioneer”,,2-2509459.html

The way the article discussed intelligence is as if intelligence is like an athletic ability where someone can just practice and get more intelligent like they can get faster at running for example and that this in isolation is important.

The definition of intelligence can be argued for ever, I won’t waste your time with my personal definition of intelligence. However, I can say that when I seek advice from, say, a hospital, I care not a whit about the doctors intelligence. I care about getting the right answers. A high IQ doc who can’t tell me what I need to know is not very impressive or useful even though she might be impressive on Stephen Fry’s QI.

Intelligence is required, sure, but modern knowledge work also requires a high level of teamwork and increasingly useful tools.

Augmenting the collective IQ of an organization to use Doug Engelbart’s term, is a useful metric: How does an organization as a whole deal with its environment, it’s challenges and opportunities? How does it contribute to the world around it? These are worthwhile questions. Not how high the IQ of it’s individuals are.


For a few years now I have wanted to solve ne of the main Hyperwords interface issues: putting the commands within reach without making them too obtrusive.

The solution I felt was best for most cases was to have a small icon come up when users select text, instead of the whole menu.

Some people like to select text for other reasons than to use Hyperwords, for example to show someone a selection of text.

This has been outside of our reach technically for quite some time. I have blogged about this and built mock-ups but we just couldn’t make it real. The Mikhail discovered GWT and bookmarklets and it’s all coming together.

At the same time, we have been approached by a large US charity to put Hyperwords on their site. Mikhail put together a demo and it has a small icon that comes up when you select text! I designed a simple green, blue and white ‘i’ in a circle for this, since on this site it’ll be used mostly to provide more information. We then made a version for a pitch to a UK organization (haven’t heard back ye). This time I designed a white ‘i’ inside a white circle on a blue glass sphere. It’s large, friendly and ‘pretty’.

But we are not moving towards having this icon on all Hyperwords versions. And here we are providing commands, not just further information, so what should the icon look like?

I designed tests, all of them grey – I don’t want this to be too obtrusive. Some were spheres, some with our icon, some without. There was * and + and all kinds of symbols. I played around with making nice metallic or glass spheres – which I am finding quite hard to do. Then I remembered I have one in my iProject folder. I couldn’t find it but there was a screenshot of a normal arrow cursor. I played with it. Made it part transparent, lost the tail. And tried it live on our mockup.

It worked. It worked very well. It feels like, instead of a new icon coming up, the cursor sticks with the selection. This gives the feeling on it being an extension of the cursor and not something new. And it encourages inspection. I reall, really like it. What do you think?

Try it here.


Ramadan is offensive to Christians as it unfairly punishes restaurants in business areas which loose sales. Ridiculous claim? Definitively. I just made it up. It’s not hard to find someone who feels slighted by someone else though, so the story about Muslims being offended by the shape of the Apple Store entrance in New York really should be taken with a pinch of salt. If the present issues were not around Christians and Muslims, but for example, with Jews, I am sure one could find someone offended by the Millennium Dome: It looks like a skull-cap!  🙂

Aiport Security

A good point in the Independent newspaper here in the UK today. Page 8, headline: “Security at airports ‘increase risk of terror'”. Couldn’t find a URL, sorry.

The first point that is made that there is a bigger risk of a rocket or mortar attack from outside the airport than someone with a bomb, now that they are looking for this.

But the second point made me feel a little dumb. And scared. Because it’s so obvious and quite scary: Security lines are long and of course, they are by definition not secure – they are there to make the area after them secure. This makes them a very attractive target: Bomb in a briefcase in a security line. Lots of people killed and the terror and chaos that would ensue would be phenomenal. People would be very uneasy about standing in long security lines after that.

Winning Hearts & Minds.

Worth a look.

Worth reading the captions.

Can’t send kids with guns to re-build a country. Hey, I wouldn’t have been any better. I was in the Army when I was younger.

This is what the world gets when the US invades, rips out the current infrastructure (police, army and so on), gets shot at, gets surprised (hey! we are the hollywood heros!) and shoots back. With bigger guns.

Read the captions.

How can this ever be ‘won’?

Had potential victory in Iraq even been defined at this point?

Would we know it if we saw it? If we don’t know what it would be, how could we possibly hope to get there?

Not with bigger guns.


American’s may be treated the same as other people by the Bush administration soon:

From The LA times:

“BURIED IN THE complex Senate compromise on detainee treatment is a real shocker, reaching far beyond the legal struggles about foreign terrorist suspects in the Guantanamo Bay fortress. The compromise legislation, which is racing toward the White House, authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights”

Thursday, September 28, 2006 at 2:19 PM EDT,1,138419,print.story

The Future of the Newspaper?

In response to

The Future of the Newspaper is as a 2.0 Platform

I am all for the future of the web. My professional future is all about the web; creating a more interactive information space.

But newspapers are physical objects, they are not just passive carriers of information.

You cannot skim the web like you can a large page of newsprint.

You cannot read on a laptop as easily as you can a a newspaper. A study I was involved with about 2 years ago found that people move, or change their position while reading, noticeably more when reading form paper media than from a laptop. It was quite a casual study of people reading in Starbucks, carried out over a month, but revealing. Have a look at the way people read next time you enjoy a cup.

Of course, eBooks will bridge the gap to a degree, but it will still lack the expanse that a paper offers, the real estate.

It all comes down to the quality of reading. Today we can zoom through the web with – among other things, our Hyperwords Firefox extension – but nothing beats reading a long, in-depth opinion piece in the International Herald Tribune on paper with good lighting. It is so much more suited for deep reading.

An exciting potential is of course when we have eInk of a quality resembling newsprint with foldable, large paper – as seen in countless Sci-Fi movies. This is one area I think Hollywood has got it right 🙂

TV format? What TV format?

The television industry doesn’t seem to have understood the nature of Moore’s law. Simply stated it means that the effort of the entire history of computing will be doubled over the next year and a half.

A friend of mine just tested the latest Mac Pro desktop machine. It’s an amazing performer and playing with a timed test in Doom, he found that you could run the game at maximum settings at maximum resolution and get more frames per second than the previous generation could get on more pedestrian settings.

Which is nice if you are a gamer. But here is the eye-opener: For motion on a screen the size of a television human eyes loose the individual frames that make up the video image at around 12 frames per second and the image becomes more fluid at around 25 frames per second. This is why film and tv frame rates operate at around this frame rate, it’s the lowest number of frames needed to produce a temporally coherent image.

But what about the high end? Studies have shown that above 60 frames per second we can’t really tell the difference between different frame rates. At 75 frames a second though, tests with film have shown, the image somehow locks in synch with the brain and a much clearer, deeper image is perceived.

Video images have several dimensions of fidelity or clarity: the amount of pixels on the screen, the color depth and contrast of these pixels and how often they change – the frame rate or temporal resolution.

High definition television is sold under two sizes and two varieties: 720 or 1080 pixels/lines of vertical resolution and interlaced (where the tv screen only updates every other line of pixels at a time to save processing and data rates) or progressive (which is like film, the whole screen is replaced at once).

The frame rate of high definition is currently 24, 25 with 60 frames per second in development.

Pushing an image of 1080 lines worth of image completely refreshed 60 times a second requires a tremendous amount of storage, transmission and processing power.

But only with the equipment we have today. And many types of video won’t benefit from such a huge and smooth image.

So here is the question: Why can’t the industry make this much more flexible? Why can’t video cameras record at a screen size and frame rate that the manufacturer can build and sell and that the consumer prefers? Pocket cameras have these options as well, but why not all kinds of video cameras, including professional models?

And as a related question, why can’t display manufacturers build as powerful or cheap displays as they want, and consumers can choose what they feel is right?

Sure, some norms will develop, then change. But in a digital world, why assume standards have to be dictated to a whole range of users, why not keep it as loose as the development of games?

Maybe something like a QuickTime wrapper for broadcast? Your equipment chooses from available signals and shows you the best it possibly can?

There are many translations and re-codings in a digital network anyway, it’s time to loose the idea of ‘broadcast’ entirely and work on developing smarter interoperabilities for an increasing number of capture and display devices. NTSC is dead, the same image on your mobile phone or 3,000p at 75fps on your plasma is the future. And then that future is obsolete by the time you are done watching the movie, it’s time for the wholly liquid image.


In response to Guy said:

“Been reading this week how the Athenians didn’t really have a positive concept of liberty until the Spartans tried to take democracy away from them. It had always been “freedom from…” various types of outside interference. I think our generation and the ones below are getting that way too. We never had to fight for our freedom in any meaningful way so we regard unfreedom as a disturbance. Maybe one of the benefits of technology will be give us the sense of positive engagment with freedom that conflicts use to supply!”

User/Use Diagram

As an elaboration on who our target users are (knowledge workers), what the target use is (knowledge work) and how it maps onto current and future  Hyperwords features, I have put together a diagram at: The columns on the left are about the work we need to augment, along with a few critical sub-tasks (Click for more info):

finding useful information
avoiding useless information
dialog & production 

The columns on the right are the commands we offer and plan to offer (in italic). This list is not in the order of our menu, but reordered to better fit the general work outline:

about this page

Click on the diagram to zoom in and out.

More Info

Here is the list of general uses with specific uses attached. What do you think of this arrangement? Add/Delete?

finding useful information Find relevant information efficiently
convenient searches
reference look-ups
Navigation along dimensions (people, dialog, inbound links, related, time)

avoiding useless information Not have to trawl through large amounts of noise (same as above, but not searches)
reference look-ups
Navigation along dimensions (people, dialog, inbound links, related, time, home page)

reading Internalize important information
Views (pleasant, color coded, annotations)

analyze Analyze information
reference look-ups
other views
compare & contrast
other applications

dialog & production Discuss information and issues with colleagues and external people, file reports
through voice calls/Skype
through sending emails
through IM
through tagging
through blogging
through annotation
through creating new documents