Practice, Practice, Practice

As you become skilled in a task, its demand for energy diminishes. Studies of the brain have shown that the pattern of activity associated with an action changes as skill increases, with fewer brain regions involved. Talent has similar effects. Highly intelligent individuals need less effort to solve the same problems, as indicated by both pupil size and brain activity. A general “law of least effort” applies to cognitive as well as physical exertion. The law asserts that if there are several ways of achieving the same goal, people will eventually gravitate to the least demanding course of action.

Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow

…and we say “Well yeah, of course!” Yet, I don’t think we give enough credence to the importance of practicing cognitive tasks, especially when they drive our craft forward. Practice is as important for the coder, designer, writer or manager as it is for the athlete.

Slanty Design in the Real World and on the Web

Architectures of Control, which provides some very interesting analysis of products that are “designed with features that intentionally restrict the way the user can behave” in order to encourage the user to follow certain practices and behaviors, has posted Slanty design, which is a great introduction to the concept and bridges design in the physical world and design for the Web. It’s a quick, well illustrated article that I encourage everyone, not just designers to read.

For non-designers, it may shed some light as to why some of yoru favorite products and services act as they do.

The Urban Cup Holder

Urban Cup Holder, image taken from swissmiss.typepad.comThe Urban Cup Holder by Up to You is an amazing idea that transforms your environment on the go. In a large metropolis, it could shift the usual travel patterns, hopefully slowing life down by encouraging people to use the space around them and communicate. Or, as one commenter noted, it could be a nice way to extend the footprint of a cafe, something that could prove important to smokers as more and more cities enact non-smoking ordinances.

I think it will get the most usage (at least here in Austin), as a beer holder. Whether you need a spot for your brew when you’re on a party barge, or on the patio at one of your favorite night spots, the Urban Cup Holder would be pretty damned useful. The built-in hook would be handy for jackets or grocery bags, though I’m not sure how much weight it could hold.

I can’t find a product page, nor any photos beyond the one I snagged from swissmiss, so I have no idea if this is anything more than a concept. I’m going to contact Up to You in order to learn more, as I’d love to see these in use.

Via swissmiss (where I snagged the photo), via Ben Hammersley

Se the comments for an update.

Architecture – Analog and Digital

Garrett Dimon’s review of For the People by the People, a book about architecture (buildings not pages) has prompted me to add it to my Amazon Wishlist. Sadly I missed the Campfire chat he had set up to discuss it, leaving me with just a small taste, and ultimately causing me to want to read it even more. It isn’t very often that you hear about online reading groups spontaneously occurring…

I’ll leave you with the quote that Garrett highlighted as that is what truly piqued my interest:

So it is inevitable that as the work of building passes into the hands of specialists, the patterns which they use become more and more banal, more willful, and less anchored in reality.

Christopher Alexander


Creative Home Engineering integrates “silent, automated hidden passageways” into your home. How cool is that?! Beyond the standard “pull on a book” or twisting a candlestick, their custom switches give you the ability to activate the passage entries any way you want. The “triple-redundant safety features includ[e] optical sensor arrays, overtorque protection, thermal sensors, infrared sensors and mechanical obstruction detectors” as well as biometrics (fingerprints, optical and voice). They apparently have pre-fab kits ($150+) available for those who can’t afford a complete solution ($10,000). Link via one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman.

Whiteboard Walls

Kevin Kelly’s site, Cool Tools has posted a great tip about one of my favorite tools: white boards. As a geek, I love the ability to quickly sketch out a flow chart, rough UI design or a task list on my office white board. While I have a small white board in my home office, I dream of a day that I can have an entire wall covered with marker board.

The post provides a great amount of detail concerning the options available, breaking it down into two options, “cheap” and “best”. The latter option is made of metal coated in ceramic, so it becomes much more useful as you can utilize magnets, eliminating the need for a separate cork board.


Aluma Frame Picture taken from the Official Aluma Designs Web site

Aluma produces framing systems out of perforated aluminum, which provides an amazing amount of creative flexibility. I would love to get a several frames, in varying sizes (and perhaps colors) when Sarah and I have bought our house. The style wold match my computer desk perfectly, establishing a modern feel in my office.

Kitchen Voodoo

Voodoo Knife Rack
Photo taken from Engadget
I love the Voodoo Knife Rack made by Viceversa. They have taken a rather utilitarian tool (an object to hold knives) and designed a fun, yet useful piece of working art. Granted, I’m not keen on the exposed blades, but perhaps the danger of cutting oneself is part of the fun. Hrrrm, perhaps not. Either way, it looks cool, even if it isn’t something I would choose to use.