October 23, 2006

Ethnography - A Top Odd Job

CareerBuilder.com excerpts Nancy Rica Schiff's books, Odd Jobs, and its sequel Odder Jobs, for their list of Top 20 Odd Jobs. Number 19 is "Ethnographer".

This doesn't bode well for those of us promoting early, qualitative, "soft" field research as a primer for product innovation. Pitch staffing an ethnographer on a UX project and a client is likely to say, "Oh, that's one of those 'odd jobs', like Wax Figure Maker (number 3), or "Dog Food Tester" (number 16)." Why should I pay for that on this project?

The answer, of course, is that ethnographic research is one of the few ways you can really find out what customers want. Better yet, you can find out what they need, even if they can't express what they want yet. Participants in a focus group won't be able to tell you what they need if they don't know it themselves.

John Rheinfrank, one of the smartest guys I ever was lucky enough to work with, once told us the story of how his team did the field studies that led to the disposable camera. Insights into why people took photos, and the circustances and situations surrounding the photo-taking event, led to huge business opportunities.

But fortunately, I can call myself an "information architect", which sounds much more smooooooth than one of the "top 20 odd jobs".

Posted by jameshom at 12:24 PM | Comments are turned off (0) | TrackBack

October 20, 2006

This Pen's Mightier than a Sword

Less-lethal options are becoming much more popular these days, as manufacturers mine the wealth of historical martial arts weaponry for ideas.

In my Return of the Yawara post, I described how Cold Steel brought back the 1960s "evil fighting stick" with the Koga SD series. Cold Steel's new "mini" model seems much more businesslike than the "adult novelty" (ahem) look of the original SD1:

photo of Cold Steel Koga SD2

The yawara of the 1960s is, like its cousin the kubotan, based on the koppo stick and tessen-jutsu techniques of medieval Japan.

Photo of kubaton key ring

Virtually any small-diameter, rigid stick works with these fighting arts, and a lot of martial artists carry small flashlights, like the venerable Mini MagLite, for this purpose.

Photo of Mini MagLite flashlight

The latest wrinkle in koppo stick design is the new defensive pens. Made of hard alloy, with strong business ends, these are designed to be easily accessed and legal to carry.

Photo of Mil-Tac TDP-1 Pen

Mil-Tac's TDP-1 is designed to be a working writing pen, PDA stylus, and if the need arises, a handy koppo stick. Designed by Allen Elishewitz, responsible for many great Benchmade designs, this pen looks all business. It seems a bit pricey at $99 though. But would you want to break your $130 MontBlanc, or worse, your $700 Cartier on some perp's hard head? Didn't think so.

According to Craig Sword, Mil-Tac's founder (and yes, that's his name), "one end is pointed, which could be used as a very effective defense tool, while the other end is blunt and could be used as a control device. Not only is this pen designed to be used as a defense tool and writing instrument but it also has a very attractive appearance and can also be used as a PDA stylus or pen." I always dig multipurpose things ("It's an axle grease, and a dessert topping!")--makes you feel like your gear is more capable or something.

Hard to say if this pen would be permissible through security checkpoints. It is just a pen, after all, albeit one that's rather robust in construction. Unlike other similar products that have a hidden knife or canister of pepper spray inside, this one is just a pen--no blade or chemical weapon (unless you count the ink).

Posted by jameshom at 01:30 PM | Comments are turned off (0) | TrackBack
All content copyright © 1999 - 2010 James Hom