Playing With Fire: First Impressions of Amazon’s New Device

By Sven Larsen

Is it worth it?

That’s the question everyone’s probably asking about Amazon’s new Kindle Fire, a device some have called an “iPad killer”. For most of us the $200 price point of the Fire was enough to provoke some seriously heavy interest and make it an early contender for our Holiday wish lists. But for me, the initial question remained. Was this a serious play on Amazon’s part or would this end up being the next Zune?

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World Usability Day 2011 – Colombia


by Luis Alveart

On November 11th, Bogota was one of the many venues around the world hosting this event, which is gathering more and more people every year. In Colombia it has become the main conference for everyone interested and involved with usability. Around 300 people gathered at the World Usability Day – Colombia, something that shows that more professionals and companies are concerned and interested in getting to know more about this topic.

International and local speakers were in charge of presenting different concepts and methodologies related with user experience, information architecture, interaction design and usability.

During this meeting, Zemoga, who was one of the sponsors of the event, showed its leadership on usability in the Colombian market. It became more evident during the panel discussion named “Usability and UX: Trends, methodologies and challenges for the Colombian agencies” where Alejandro Gomez, president and co-founder of Zemoga, made Zemoga stand out for having the biggest user experience team, and implementing different procedures to define a better digital experience.

The event went through three different moments: the local scenario, with interesting talks, by Natalia Vivas, former Zemoga member of the AI team, and Cesar Collazos, about information architecture principles and user-centered design. They both explained important concepts as ubiquitous computing, affordances, mapping and the importance of recognition before remembering.

Then we heard some thoughts about the Latin-American environment through the speech made by Juan Marino and Santiago Bustelo, from Argentina. Marino talked about mental models, paper prototyping and testing for mobile devices and the relevance of defining a process in order to reach best usability practices for mobile applications. Bustelo spoke about interaction design definitions and how we can measure or quantify the efficiency of an interaction model by using the KLM-GOMS (Keystroke-level model). He also pointed out the difference between the sites that inspire us vs. the sites that we actually use and its repercussions when we are defining interaction models.

The best and most expected moment of the day, with no letdowns, was the closing conference by Whitney Hess from New York. She showed us a panorama about usability around the world. Ms. Hess spoke about visual design principles as an introduction of experience design, presenting to the audience different examples of failed projects that went against those principles. Then she pointed out web sites that solve those problems pretty easy. (Check some ideas on her Flickr set “Design in the Wild” and her presentation about design principles on Slideshare.)

She finished her talk by showing us the significance of following our clients’ design principles in order to achieve a better experience and the way we can craft them and use it during a project.

It is amazing to be part of a huge movement like this and be able to work for a better-designed web, fulfilling user experiences.

After all, we need more EMPATHY on the World Wide Web. J

PS. Talking about empathy, it was satisfying to see how a group of deaf people could follow the event because the conference organizers had a sign language interpreter on site. That’s an example of “inclusive design”.


FIVE FOR PHONING: First impressions of Apple’s New iOS

By Sven Larsen (@zemoga)

What could tear your intrepid Canadian correspondent’s attention away from the start of the new NHL season (apart from the stunning mediocrity of the 2011-2012 Ottawa Senators)? Only the release of iOS5 of course!

Like millions of Mac faithful, I dutifully downloaded Apple’s latest operating system the minute it became available. And I’ve been playing with it pretty much non-stop in the twenty four hours since I installed it

Like the NHL season, it’s a little early to be making definitive proclamations about anything (except for the general suckitude of the aforementioned Senators). But I can give you my first impressions, the stuff I immediately liked and disliked. Let’s start with …


Unlike a lot of other users, my download and installation was relatively painless. Granted, I was doing this over the fairly robust connection we have here in the Zemoga NYC headquarters but after an initial encounter with the “Error 3002” page (solved by a quick refresh), my installation was underway. I will agree with some of the critics that it’s a pain in the butt to have to upgrade iTunes first and then download the iOS but the whole process took me under an hour. I would have liked a little more guidance from Apple about how to set up the new features though. In the end, this Mashable post was much more helpful in quickly educating me about the new features (and how to configure them properly) than anything the folks at One Infinite Loop provided.

Once I finished setting everything up, playtime could begin!

By the way, for the purposes of evaluation, I’ve been using my iPhone 3GS (still waiting for the iPhone 5 release!) so I won’t be touching on Siri or anything like that here.

So what do I love so far?

1)   NOTIFICATIONS – They look great, tell me so much more than the little red circle ever did, and I love how customizable they are. I also like that I have the option to push e-mail and other notifications to the home screen. It makes me feel like I got back all of the functionality I gave up when I originally made the switch from a Blackberry to the iPhone. I also love being able to pull down the notifications screen with a simple gesture.

2)   iMESSAGE – It’s easy to set up, has a completely seamless user experience and anyone who has ever sent a text message already knows how to use it. And, since 90% of the people I know are on iPhones, it definitely has the potential to save me some money,

3)   CAMERA BUTTON ON LOCK SCREEN – After I figured out how to pull this up, I liked it a lot. There are a lot of young kids and animals in my social circle so quick and easy access to the camera function is awesome. Especially if I can do it one handed.

4)   TWITTER INTEGRATION – I’m not a big tweeter but I will probably increase my posting thanks to the seamless integration of Twitter in to iOS5. If Briana ever moves off of her crippled Android phone onto the iOS system, I could see this being a feature she would use heavily.

What left me with that “meh” feeling?

1)   CAMERA EDITING FEATURES – Nice to have but I really don’t do a lot of editing on a three inch screen. Do you? Probably much more effective on an iPad.

2)   CARDS – A great idea but in my initial exploration, I couldn’t find a blank card (and the greetings inside were lame). I’ll explore further but if I can’t put in my own greeting I can’t see using this a lot.

3)   FIND MY PHONE – I had this app installed already so this didn’t really register with me.

4)    NEWSSTAND – Again, I don’t tend to read magazines on my iPhone. Another one that is more iPad focused. Finally (and most importantly) …

5)   ALL THE iCLOUD FEATURES – Not because they’re not great. But because I don’t have any way to use them yet. iCloud functionality is not up and running for anyone who hasn’t installed Lion. This is actually a pretty big deal because Apple has always supported backwards compatibility in the past. I’m disappointed that I can’t take advantage of these features right away (hopefully we’ll upgrade to Lion on our work computers, soon). But even if I was running Lion, the iTunes matching service that is the sexiest part of this feature set is still a few weeks away from launch. I understand Apple’s desire to launch iOS5 before the iPhone 4S on sale date but I really wish they had gotten everything ready for rollout at the same time.

Was my first day iOS5 experience positive? For the most part, yes. Unlike the Senators season opener, I definitely felt like the product has been upgraded from the previous version and I’m enjoying the new additions. But like a fantasy league player who hasn’t been able to see all his draft picks play yet (man up, Sidney Crosby!) I’m excited to unleash the full power of iOS5 and see what this baby can really do.

How was your first day with the new system, gentle readers?



image via Apple 


Top Five: Go-To Websites

by Sven Larsen
So I’ve been reading through my colleagues posts about their 5 favorite websites and you’ve probably had the same reaction that I’ve had. What a bunch of geeks!

Just kidding guys. I love you.

But there’s no question that working in a specific discipline like Design or IT focuses your digital consumption patterns.

As Chief Marketing Officer for Zemoga my main job is to tell the story of who we are and what we do here. To do that effectively, I need to have some grasp of almost every part of our operation (while not being an expert in any). As a result, I look for sites that can keep me on top of things without necessarily taking me on that “deep dive” that makes some of my colleagues dance with glee.

What do I look at on a day to day basis? here are some of the digital resources that help me sound like I know what I’m talking about:

1) SMASHING MAGAZINE – Ostensibly a site for web designers, Smashing magazine is written in a simple and accessible language that reaches out to people who don’t know their SQL from their GUI. In addition to technical articles on things like CSS or HTML5, Smashing takes a more general look at usability and function with articles on consumer purchase behavior or typography or how to create an e-book. While i may not always be the target audience for their daily posts, I definitely learn something from their site every day.

2) WARREN ELLIS – As part of my misspent youth at Marvel Comics, I got to befriend cutting edge author Warren Ellis before he went all Hollywood and started writing movies for Bruce Willis (ya know I love ya too, Warren). Warren’s site is an eclectic slice of cutting edge culture, people riding the bleeding edge of cool, and delightfully obscure and entertaining stuff like “Water supersaturation in the Martian atmosphere discovered”. Warren is probably one of the smartest folks I know and if you want to see an incredibly well curated yet deeply personal take on all things new and interesting you should give his site a look.

3) LYNDA.COM – Life at Zemoga can be pretty crazy sometimes. When my boss comes in and says “I just fired the video editor for that shoot. You need to learn Final Cut Pro in the next 48 hours”, is the site I turn too. They’ve got a full range of video courses on almost every piece of creative software out there. As we all become producers and broadcasters in the new connected era, helps me continually add to my skill set and tackle whatever strange challenges life or my job throws at me.

4) DARING FIREBALL – Unrepentant Apple supporter John Gruber’s intensely personal take on technology is one of my favorite reads of the day. Not only does he provide cogent tech analysis that helps me make sense of the latest Facebook announcements or iOS updates, he also isn’t afraid to stake out a position in the digital world. His hilarious examples of claim chowder and calling out of senior tech execs always entertain. In some ways he’s the bitchy Partis Hilton of the tech world.

5) TSN.CA – You didn’t expect me to get through a whole post without mentioning hockey did you? TSN is still the best in the business when it comes to reporting on the NHL and all the hockey stuff i care about (Spengler Cup anyone?) and most Americans don’t. It also lets me keep up on the Rugby World Cup in a way that ESPN never would.

Hope this post gives you a little insight on where some of our weird ideas and fun factoids come from. Feel free to call me out the next time I insert some of this info into our next blog or presentation!

When From Bogota With Love first started, the Z-team made a point of sharing their inspiration with you, be it books, websites or music that was pushing the innovation and creative process forward. We’d like to pick that up again.

For the next several weeks, my fellow Zemogians and I will be sharing our Top Five. The series starts with our Top Five Go-To Websites.


Where’s My Illuminated Kindle?

by Sven Larsen (@zemoga)

The last time I asked Jeff Bezos a question, he turned around and released a sub $100 Kindle (still waiting for that charity announcement, Jeff). So I thought I might ask him another one. Where’s my Illuminated Kindle?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m as excited as anyone about last week’s Kindle announcements. I’m usually one of those guys who holds off a few months and doesn’t buy the first release of a new device. But the Amazon Fire is so cool that I might just gamble a couple of hundred bucks to check it out. I especially want to get a closer look at the new Silk browser. Sounds amazing.

But here’s the thing. Amazon tells me I can get 18 million movies, TV shows, songs magazines and books on the Fire. And I’m sure the latest episode of MAD MEN or a streaming version of REAL STEEL will look great on the device. But what about my book reading experience. Is it going to be as dull and boring as my current Kindle experience?

As Seth Godin recently noted in a recent post for the Domino Project blog, people buy books for many reasons apart from just the words they contain. The physical joy of seeing a beautifully designed object is something we all share and books can be some of the most wonderful and creatively designed objects out there. Historical tomes like the Guttenberg Bible or the Book of Kells are as culturally significant as works of art as they are as publications or receptacles for ideas. And classic book covers can become iconic, emblematic not just of the work  but of shared experiences and memory surrounding the work. Don’t believe me? Is there anyone who went to high school in the United States who doesn’t recognize this image?

But what happens when I read a book on the Kindle? Well apparently the first thing that happens now, if I’m reading on anything other than a Fire is I see an advertisement. If I don’t want that particular viewing experience I need to pay a $40 premium. Not in love with that idea Jeff but I understand your trying to keep the device as cheap as possible. I haven’t seen a Kindle version e-book on a Fire tablet yet (strangely absent from the debut product shots) but I’m guessing that it replicates the current reading experience. And that is really unambitious.

When the iPad debuted, one of the apps that had everyone raving was  the “Alice” app developed by Atomic Antelope. The Huffington Post said that it “reinvented reading” and that traditional publishers would need to step up their game when it came to their digital offerings. And the traditional publishers responded with deafening silence. Sure there are some cool kids books apps for the iPad. But publishers have gone for the low hanging fruit, giving you Kindle e-books of popular bestsellers and business books. The only envelopes they’ve been pushing are filled with requests to Oprah to start up her book club again.

But I know you see the potential in the Fire, Jeff. I know you see that it’s a cheap and easy way for users to experience the same kind of unique content consumption that got folks so excited about the iPad in the same place. That’s why you’ve signed a deal with DC Comics to make 100 of their image crammed superhero books exclusive to the Fire.

So work with the publishers out there. Talk to Dorling Kindersley and Taschen and Phaidon and all the other amazing publishers who make their living by creating stunning visual works. Show me the true potential of your groundbreaking device.

Give me this:


 Not this:

Give me the same experience that the best of the book publishing tradition can offer me. Give me an illuminated Kindle!

Anybody else want one?


Why Amazon Should Sell the Kindle for $100 | An Open Letter to Jeff Bezos

To: Jeff Bezos, CEO,

From: Sven Larsen, CMO, Zemoga

Re: Give a Kid a Kindle

Jeff – first of all, congratulations on the success of the Kindle. It’s an amazing utilitarian device that puts you decisively in the hardware business. And it’s really helped kick the e-book business in to high gear. It looks like we’re well on the way to the media future Nicholas Negroponte speculated about in his 1995 classic BEING DIGITAL.
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Apple Sweats The Small Stuff

By Sven Larsen (@zemoga)

Do Apple employees ever take a day off?

That’s the question I always seem to be asking after the company’s annual Worldwide Developer’s Conference. The 2011 version of “Christmas for Tech Geeks” was held in California last week and like WWDCs past, Apple unveiled a plethora of new technologies and innovation.


State of The Industry: How Technology Is Changing The Comic Book Industry

By Sven Larsen (@zemoga)

We’ve talked about the future of book publishing (hopeful), magazine publishing (a little iffy) and newspaper publishing (downright scary). But what about the red-headed stepchild of the publishing scene, the humble comic book? How are developments in technology and digital media impacting the future of this All-American medium?

At first glance, these should be salad days for the comic


How Technology Is Changing The Newspaper Industry

Old Heidelberg press 2 How Technology Is Changing The Newspaper Industry

By Sven Larsen (@zemoga)

Are you bored yet? It’s a truism of journalism that the media loves to talk about itself. So no subject has probably been debated as intently and as deeply as the future of the newspaper industry. Pundits far more learned than I have gone back and forth about where things went wrong (the death of traditional classified advertising, the slowness with which the industry embraced digital, free vs. paid, etc.) and every week there’s a new hot button story.