« August 2006 | Main | October 2006 »

September 2006

Stephane Pompougnac

One of my favorite musicians is Stephane Pompougnac, the resident DJ at Hotel Costes in Paris. In fact, Pompougnac gained international fame for his compilation series of house/lounge music cds he mixed under the title of Hotel Costes.

And while I've had the pleasure of visiting the hotel in Paris, tonight I got to see - and meet - Pompougnac on my home turf, as he was the guest DJ at Match Burgers and Martinis on Mass Ave.


I'm still a bit surprised that Match secured a DJ of Pompougnac's stature, but it was in honor of their first anniversary, and proved to be a great venue to hear and see him perform. I had made a dinner reservation a week ago and got to enjoy the show from a seat in the dining room, while the small bar area was really crowded (and a line of people snaked down the street waiting to get in).

The Multitaskers

[this post originally appeared on the PARTNERS+simons blog]

AdAge today posted findings from Yahoo! and OMD's Advertising Week research presentation on the modern family's media consumption and buying habits.

The highlights:

  • People on average pack 43 hours worth of activity into a typical day. On a global scale, 8.7 of those hours are spent with media; Americans spend the most time with media at 9.5 hours.
  • In the U.S., the average family has 11 technological devices. Globally, the average internet household has 2.4 TVs, two computers and 6.3 "other" devices, which could include digital cameras, GPS devices or DVRs.
  • The U.S. lags in DVR and MP3 use. MP3s are most highly used in China, at 72%, and Korea, at 73%. DVR use is highest in Mexico and the U.K. at 42%.
  • South Korea lags in e-mail use, primarily because blogging is so popular that many people communicate through messages in blogs.
  • Some 16% of adults say communication with their children has improved, thanks to instant messaging.

MITX Session on RIAs

Ria_1[this post originally appeared on the PARTNERS+simons blog]

When speaking with our clients about their web site design and development needs, we often talk about the trend away from linear, HTML experiences toward more Rich Internet Applications.

The reasons for this shift are many:

  • HTML has was originally designed to present and link content, not replicate applications. With the overall migration to broadband, rich media, and web-services type experiences, HTML has simply not been able to keep up.
  • The introduction of Flash added an element of interactivity not realized with HTML alone, but it too has shortcomings. It's not appropriate for enterprise applications and the code can be tough to maintain.
  • RIAs overcome a lot of these shortcomings and present the interactivity, richness and responsiveness of desktop applications (e.g., single-screen, continuously updated information without having to wait for page reloads), which translates into much more sophisticated user experiences.

So, we were excited to participate in yesterday's MITX event sponsored by Adobe called Creating the Most Effective Online Customer Experience. Adobe, by virtue of its acquisition of Macromedia, is the creator of Flex, a Web application development software used in building many RIAs (you may have also heard of AJAX, which is an alternative development technique).

Our discussion centered on how businesses can use RIAs to create rich content, documents and applications to not only deliver better user experiences but also solve real business problems. For example:

RIAs can improve direct manipulation of product features, giving users immediate updates based on their actions. In the old model, site visitors would click selections (e.g., product attributes or add-ons) and wait for the page to reload with the updates before moving on to the next step in the configuration. RIAs now allow us to present product options in a single screen and make it easier for users to see near-instantaneous updates, often through drag and drop functionality. Harley Davidson's configurator provides a good example of this.

RIAs can improve data visualization by allowing you to aggregate data, customize reports and instantly drill down on information right within the browser. Without them, it is difficult to integrate data from multiple sources into one compelling interface that accommodates drill-down or reformatting without having to go back to the server and wait for an update. Blue Nile's diamond search application provides slide-rule functionality to sort diamonds via price, cut, color, clarity, carat in real time.

RIAs can reduce bandwidth usage and server loads through client side processing. Take, for example, an online mortgage application which may need to validate information like email addresses, format data like dollar amounts, and allow ways to sort and filter data views (such as terms and rates). RIAs eliminate the reliance on the server to do all this processing, allowing the mortgage applicant to get all that feedback immediately.

Most importantly, RIAs can boost ROI by improving the end-user experience through simplified process flow, creating higher conversion rates and improved customer satisfaction.

The key to using RIAs is knowing when to use them: we always advocate using scenario design to uncover the most appropriate use (i.e., thinking about how users engage with information, and then determining the best way to present it). Remember that info-overloaded, time-starved consumers demand utility & simplicity, and clean designs will always prevail. While RIAs can infuse your site experience with a breath of fresh air, it is important to make sure the application is grounded in end user utility and ease of use. Boxes and Arrows has a good article on Usability Heuristics for Rich Internet Applications that was published in 2003 but covers principles that remain true today.

Adobe also has some good information in their RIA Topic Center, including examples, design & development resources, and white papers on the business impact of RIAs.



SunTrap Handbag

Designer Rosanna Kilfedder was inspired by her girlfriends (digging for car keys in the dark abyss of their handbags) to create the SunTrap Handbag. The bag, which has a battery sewn into the lining,  lights up when opened and remains lit for 15 seconds (or until the bag is zipped closed again). A flexible, solar side panel keeps the battery charged with normal everyday use; the battery can also be used to recharge wireless devices like a mobile phone.

Suntrap_handbag The bag will be on exhibit at Wired NextFest, a four-day festival showcasing innovations in communication, design, entertainment, health, transportation, security, and green living. It takes place September 29 thru October 1 in New York City.

Viva Las Vegas

Fatburger I've been negligent in posting about my recent visit to Las Vegas, so here's a quick recap of the trip:

I headed out on a Friday night for a 4-day stay at the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino. Although I've been to Vegas a few times before, this was my first time staying at Mandalay. It's a beautiful resort - the pool area (complete with man made beach and waves) and Moorea Beach Club are quite the scene. But it's a little farther removed from the strip than I prefer (it's at the very end...and I like to be up in the middle near Bellagio and Mirage).

But Mandalay has been busy building out their resort, which now includes THEhotel at Mandalay Bay, a smaller, boutique hotel attached to the main building but offering its own dining & club facilities in a cool, W-styled environment. I enjoyed a breakfast here one morning, followed by a walk up the strip that culminated in a shopping spree at Caesar's Forum Shops (which were MUCH better than I had remembered!).

Las_vegas_3 Paris Las Vegas  hadn't yet opened the last time I was in town and being the francophile that I am, I had to stop in to enjoy a chocolate croissant and cafe au lait breakfast...something to tide me over until my next trip to the real City of Light.

I dined at a couple of eateries I had not visited before either: Jasmine, a Cantonese restaurant in the Bellagio overlooking their famous fountains, and Samba, a Brazilian steakhouse inside the Mirage. Both were excellent. As for nightlife (outside of the occasional casino run, of course), I visited the hipster nightclub Light in the Bellagio and a private party at the Moorea Beach Club at Mandalay (funny Vegas encounter: Alan Thicke of tv's Growing Pains fame, attended this party with his wife...check out his site for a funny soundtrack and pics).

I also took in a showing of Love, Cirque du Soleil's tribute to the Beatles that got off to a rousing start but suffered some technical difficulties throughout. But that didn't dampen the spirits of the die-hard Beatles fans, like these folks dancing in the aisles pre-show:

You may view the full photo set here.

Fox News 10th Anniversary

You may not have heard, but today was Fox News Day in Boston, in honor of the network's 10th anniversary, which they're celebrating with a roadshow across the country.Bill_oreilly_001

Today's festivities included a live taping of The O'Reilly Factor in Fanueil Hall, with Bill O'Reilly himself and special guest Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. O'Reilly was particularly excited to be taping here, since he attended Boston University and Harvard and did some early broadcast work here in town.
The taping was followed by a cocktail reception at Plaza III Steakhouse, where Bill, Mitt (and his wife) and NewsCenter 5's Susan Wornick all made appearances.

Check it out: Steph_and_bill_2

America's Running Routes

I like this America's Running Routes app from the USA Track and Field web site. It's a Google Maps mash-up that allows runners to map their favorite routes, save it to the database, and share with other runners.

The mapping app has an easy-to-use, point-and-click interface, and shows mile markers along the route. Runners can input attributes (flat, hilly, etc.), rate the routes, and read other user's reviews. Check it out:


Pulling an All Nighter

Lulu's attempt at burning the midnight oil:All_nighter_1_2
On a related note, I'm curious about what kind of programming was on TV tonight about Ellen DeGeneres and her new French Bulldog.

Between 8:40pm and 12:10am I received about 15 different site visits from people who had typed some variation of "What is Ellen DeGeneres' French Bulldog's name?" into Google.

I can only guess that there was some kind of contest, and viewers turned to their trusty Google to find the answer.

Visitors were probably dismayed to see that my site didn't have the answer (it showed up in search results thanks to my Ellen post and my numerous posts about Lulu)...until now: ContactMusic reports that her new addition is named Pig.

So what do I win?

Tune in to Ellen Today!

The 4th season of the Ellen Degeneres show premieres today at 4pm 8pm on ABC (channel 5 here in Boston). Be sure to tune in today (and tomorrow!) to see all the excitement I witnessed first-hand when I attended the live taping of the show last Monday in New York.

That's right - I was lucky enough to be invited by my friends at AOL to attend the taping of Ellen's Line_2 season opener, which was filmed in front of a 10,000 person audience in Central Park. Fans had queued up for hours (literally: I was told the folks near the front had arrived around 6am, some even the night before) in hopes of getting good seats; lucky for me I had a VIP pass which allowed me to go straight to the head of the line when I arrived around 11:30.

Even then, I had to wait for nearly two hours before they let us into the park. I made lots of friends in line, including a young woman and her dad who were visiting NYC for the first time as a family vacation before she headed off to college. They attended the live taping of the Today Show that morning on a lark (Mom & brother missed out because they were not willing to get up that early!), and ended up winning tickets to Ellen's show. Also in line were a newlywed couple who had been married the day before and also won tickets from the Today Show...and the groom was set to leave for Iraq this week.

My seat was in the 6th row, on the right-hand side of the stage, which afforded a fantastic view of Ellen and her guests (and her new DJ, who was positioned on a platform in the middle of the crowd where he kept everyone moving during set changes and commercial breaks).


Ellen's first guest was Justin Timberlake, who, together with TImbaland performed the breakout hit from his new CD, Sexyback. The crowd, of course, went wild, and Ellen had a ball dancing with Justin on stage.

Justin_ellen2 Justin2

Beyonce4After Justin's performance and interview (really, he should stick to singing and dancing) the crew did a quick set change while Ellen switched up her outfit, and we were back in action...this time to shoot episode #2 (which will air tomorrow), with special guest Beyonce.

It was pretty funny because everyone pretended like it was Tuesday (i.e., "We had so much fun here in Central Park yesterday that we decided to come back and do it again today!") when in fact it was still Monday. And, it was Beyonce's 25th birthday, so after her elaborate performance with her 8-piece, all female band, the crowd sang Happy Birthday to her.

It was a super long day (we didn't leave the park til around 7pm) but wow what an event. The entertainment was phenomenal - Ellen especially put on a great show (at one point she ran out onto 96th street to hail a cab, and then dragged the unsuspecting cab driver up on stage and paid him $350 to keep the meter running and just sit and watch the rest of the show!).

Be sure to tune in today and enjoy the show...you won't be disappointed!

NYC Nightlife

I visited a bunch of great nightspots in NYC last weekend (natch). Here's the official post on the topic...my apologies for the gobbledygook that sat in this space all week: I wrote some notes to myself and published them by accident. So amateur of me!

First stop was The Mercer Kitchen, the subterranean dining room at its namesake hotel. Mercer2 It's a casual spot that is able to maintain a swank feel despite the communal tables and open kitchen floorplan. The restaurant is another creation from world-renknowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and serves "American-Provencal" fare; I enjoyed a beet and goat cheese salad, followed by a steak and asparagus entree, topped off with lemon meringue pie. Magnifique!

(Plus, you have to love a place that plays music from Stephan Pompougnac/Hotel Costes on its website. Stephan is making an appearance in Boston later this month, but I'll leave that for another post...)

For stunning views of the NYC skyline, visit the newish nightclub 230 Fifth. While the indoor decor is a little 80s-cheesy, and the music leaves much to be desired, the 14,000 square foot rooftop lounge is a sight to be seen (and seen at):

230_fifth_3 230_parkFor a livelier spot, head over to Sway, a dark, Moroccan-themed lounge with a killer DJ spinning high-energy Top 40 and dance music (at least he did that night).


Or, for a more laid-back evening, visit Employees Only, a bar in the West Village that has a speakeasy feel to it: you walk past a palm reader out front and through velvet (?) curtains into a dark, back-lit lounge area.

There were a few other stops in my jam-packed 4-day weekend in the Big Apple, but those were the highlights. For the nightlife, anyway...the real highlight will appear in the next post...