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The Amazing Color-Changing Card Trick

When dealing with a complicated topic, we ought to resist the temptation to accept the words and assurances of the experts uncritically, just because they know more than we do. Humans are fallible, and we are all blinded by our biases, whether we realize it or not. And that applies to experts, as well.

This was on my mind as I was lurking over at the IxDA forum, when I came across a neat discussion about eye-tracking studies. You can read it if you want, but before you do, watch and reflect on this video.

Feed readers go here.

How did you do?

The purpose in bringing this up amidst a discussion about eye tracking studies was to point out that such studies show retinal focus, but not whether something the eye was focused on was comprehended on a cognitive level.

Behavior principle #1:
Just because someone sees and focuses on something, doesn’t mean he assigns to it the meaning the creators intended that person to assign to it, or draw all of the conclusions that could have possibly been drawn from it.

Just as the eye can focus on something without comprehending, though, the brain can comprehend something that the eye doesn’t focus on.

Behavior principle #2
Something a person does not focus on can still be comprehended at some level.

This partially explains why contextual ads perform 2.5 times better when shown in conjunction with display ads, even though display ads aren’t generally seen (according to eye-tracking studies).

Still, drawing parallels between video and reading comprehension as they pertain to how the eye focuses is problematic from several standpoints.

  1. The web pages studied through eye-tracking are typically static in time, whereas videos move.
  2. Watching a video also requires use of senses other than eyesight.
  3. In this particular case, the intent was in fact to trick the user, whereas web pages affected greatest by the inferences drawn from eye-tracking studies exist to enlighten and inform.

Watch the video again, now that you know what you’re supposed to be looking for, and you’ll pick up on all the subtle changes that were happening throughout, which you missed the first time.

As for me, I figured out pretty early that the camera angles made it impossible to tell if the trick was on the level, but I was so concerned about that — about “catching” the illusionist in the trick he said he was showing the audience — I missed all the other changes that happened.

If we assume my experience was the norm, this actually strengthens the case for the validity of the conclusions experts have been drawing from eye tracking studies.

Behavior principle #3
When looking for something specific, people typically stop looking and thinking about anything else once they feel they have found what they’re looking for.

Eye-tracking studies also tell us a lot about general user reading behavior on websites, which can be confirmed through usability studies. However, usability studies can be conducted less expensively, which relegates eye-tracking studies to the realm of academic and professional (nonpaying) research.

Since we would usually use the less expensive methods, we must rely on the words of the experts like Jakob Nielsen, who make it their business to conduct these and other studies and interpret the results.

Unfortunately, doing so uncritically also puts us at their mercy, which is why we should look at all studies performed, even by “experts,” with a healthy degree of skepticism. – Cam Beck

Hat tip to Mike Bennett for the video link.

Related Posts:
Making Design Decisions at the U.S. Census Bureau
What Reason Have We Given Our Audience to Care?
A (More) Complete Internet Advertising Solution

Doing The Most Good part 2

Cam has added an extra incentive for bloggers to participate in the Salvation Army Red Kettle campaign. For the next five bloggers that set up their campaign, he’ll create a graphic with you ringing the red kettle, much like the one he created for me.


Once you’ve set up the campaign, contact us at with an image with your face and we’ll get to work. Alternatively, if you’d like to take this image and fark it “manipulate it in order to produce a humorous reaction” feel free. As an added incentive, we’ll post links blogs, web sites, etc. that include a Red Kettle campaign.

Thanks Cam. Start ringing!!

– Paul Herring

Buy a Mac for Christmas

Just when you thought that they couldn’t do any more of the Mac vs. PC commercials, they release a new one for Christmas:

RSS readers go here. What a great way to take an existing concept and make it relevant and memorable for the holiday season. I think this is one of those commercials that people actually pay attention to. – Paul Herring

Join the Junoverse



“This is one diddle that can’t be undone, Homeskillet.”  Within the first 10 minutes of the movie, Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrutte from the Office) explains this to the main character, Juno, who is 16 years old and is shaking her pregnancy test to see if the lines will disappear.

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a sneak preview for the movie, Juno, at the Angelika film center in Dallas.  My wife had received the free tickets from her work and I was just so excited about the “free” part that I didn’t have a clue what we were going to see.  As we entered the theater we were searched for any cameras and watched as others were told to take their cellphones back to their cars before they would be allowed in  Since the movie isn’t going to be released until December this seemed fine by me, but who would watch a movie recorded from someone’s cellphone?  But I digress. After we were magic-wanded, we were asked what size we were so that we could be issued our promotional t-shirt.  On the front it simply said “Juno” and on the back was an etch-e-sketch and Wilson’s classic “Homeskillet” one-liner.

We walked into the 100 person auditorium and found our seats.  Before the film started a Fox Searchlight rep came in to make an announcement.  He asked for a show of hands for how many of us had seen Napolean Dynamite.  Nearly everyone in the theater raised their hand.  Then he asked how many of us had seen it in the theater.  That’s when the majority of the hands went back down.  “That”, he said, “is why we need you guys to spread the word about Juno.”  I thought to myself, “I’ll spread the word if the movie is good, not because you guys gave me a free t-shirt.” The rep then went on to explain how they have a fan website that will have a competition for who can earn the most points for the grand prize of having 100 of your friends attend a screening in your home town with the cast and a Gibson Les Paul Standard Goldtop Guitar.

After the explanation of how we can hype the movie before it is released they started the show.  It’s funny that they mentioned Napolean Dynamite as Juno had a very similar indie feel to it. From the music, to the transition animations, to the way the casting director focused on new faces, this movie was right up my alley.  First things first, this movie was hilarious.  It drips of sarcastic dry one-liners from beginning to end.  The language isn’t horrible but definitely coarse in places especially when you hear it coming out of a teenager’s mouth. It made me cringe at times but that’s most likely a fairly realistic representation of how kids in this age group talk in 2007.  The movie is centered around teenage pregnancy, relationships and how to cope with bad situations.  All in all, it has a really great message and I would encourage you to check it out.

As we walked out of the theater I started reading through the mailer that they were handing out.  There are many ways that someone can become the “Ruler of the Junoverse.” Here are the ways you can earn points:

  1. Sign up online, create your own profile and get your Junoverse ID Number at
  2. See the movie at an advance screening near you and get your card stamped-the more times you get it stamped, the more points you earn.
  3. Refer your friends to join
  4. Post reviews, videoblogs, tshirt designs and songs to your profile.
  5. Make JUNO your friend on MySpace and Facebook.  Let everyone know how awesome the movie is by posting the trailer to your pages.
  6. Fill in your name, address and Junoverse ID Number on your screening card, give it to a Fox Searchlight representative at your screening, or stick a stamp on it and pop it in the mail!
  7. Stay tuned to see if you’re the winner of the hometown screening and Gibson guitar!

As much as I love to be called the “Ruler” of anything, I wasn’t motivated enough to go through any of these 7 steps.  However, I was considering going to see the movie again since they gave us free tickets to the next screening, but wasn’t able to go.  Instead we gave it to our brother and sister-in-law but they were turned away at the door because they already had too many people in the theater.  They promised to send tickets for them to see it at another time.

It seems like word is spreading relatively quickly for this movie but I wonder how affective the interactive element will be for this campaign.  It seems like the best indie movies seem to never hit it big in the box office and instead have their cult following in DVD sales.  For example, I don’t even remember Mike Judge’s Office Space being in theaters but I don’t know anyone my age that hasn’t seen it.  The same can be said for Napolean Dynamite.

I think at the end of the day there’s really one question that as a marketer you need to ask yourself for this type of contest.

  1. Is the reward worth it?

    I have my doubts about this one, but then again, maybe I’m not the target demographic that Fox is going for.  I just don’t think meeting the cast is really that big of a deal especially since outside of Jennifer Garner there isn’t a big name in the group.  My wife and I also talked about the fact that the verbiage for the grand prize is vague and says “with a special appearance by cast members” for the screening.  Notice it doesn’t say “the whole cast” or “the entire cast.”  This leads me to think that you’ll have the no-name kids but not much beyond that.  In addition, I play guitar but the Gibson Les Paul just doesn’t seem that great to me.

Regardless of the contest, I think this movie will do well, but if history can predict the future Juno won’t be a box office hit. – John Herrington

The Disneyfication of America

Scott points out that “Disneyfication” is now an official word in the dictionary. Although the word is used to describe how the principles of Disney’s theme parks is being spread throughout society, Wikipedia says it is a pejorative, since the implied ideal is a more diverse way to market and consume products.

Disney isn’t without its faults, but I think the outlook is at once too optimistic and too pessimistic. It is optimistic because it infers this transformation is really taking place, and it is pessimistic because it assumes such a transformation would be a bad thing.

Take one moment to consider what certain experiences would look like if they were disneyfied.

  • Buying a car
  • Shopping for groceries
  • Filling up at a gas station
  • Filing an insurance claim
  • Renting a car

Can you think of anything else that could stand a little disneyfication? – Cam Beck

Amazon’s Kindle: Not quite enough

V3screen2_v4948245__2Amazon just launched a new devicethat they hope will change the way you read books. I give them some points for ambition and some for the features they built into the device, but for now, a perfunctory  glance at the device’s features convinces me that it is not enough to gain significant traction in the marketplace yet.

What is Great About Kindle

  1. Electronic paper is easier to read. I’ve not seen the Kindle, but I’ve seen this technology. It so effective that one can easily forget he is not reading a piece of paper. Smart move.
  2. Easy to purchase books, wherever you are. Free wireless access gives users the ability to buy books from anywhere that has access to Sprint’s data network.
  3. Instant word lookup and Wikipedia reference.Unless you have the vocabulary of Christopher Hitchens or Wes Pruden, you’ve probably read some things that you’ve had to look up, but without the benefit of immediate access to a dictionary. It’s easiest to muddle through and move on to the next sentence, but Kindle gives users instant access to a built-in dictionary without forcing the user to lose his place.
  4. Ease of access to all your books at once. The downside to this is that all the other books you’ve purchased are made somewhat superfluous.
  5. Search. Have you ever had trouble finding a specific quote you wanted to reference? If you’re like me, if after 10-45 minutes of looking, you decide to paraphrase instead, but because of the difficulty in finding the quote, you can’t be sure where you originally read it. With traditional books, searching for these sorts of cues and quotes can be difficult. An integrated search feature allows Kindle users to search across all books loaded on the device.
  6. Notes and bookmarks. Users can take notes and bookmark important parts of any book they read, making it easier to come back and reference an especially poignant section.
  7. Crosses media sources. Users can read books, blogs or other news feeds as well as download newspapers and magazines.

What Sucks About Kindle

  1. High cost of entry. Just to get started reading, you have to shell out $400 – plus the cost of books. Seth says that he argued that books should be given away for free until adoption rates increase, and I can’t argue with him (“You won’t find me on Amazon’s new book reader“).
  2. Books cannot be shared. If you lend a book to someone, you at least get to read another book yourself. However, with the Kindle, if you want a friend to read a book, you have to encourage them to either buy it for themselves or you must lend them your own Kindle.
  3. Not significantly more portable. One of Kindle’s chief selling points is that you can carry around a bunch of books (“literally” hundreds of pounds of books) with you inside of this little device. However, outside of the areas of study and research, there aren’t many profitable applications for this feature. Most people only need one or two books at a time, which they can carry along nicely without forking over $400 for the device. At most, they’ll save themselves a few pounds, not hundreds.
  4. High cost of replacement. If you lose or damage a book, you’re out anywhere between $1 and $60 (depending on the book). If you lose or damage the Kindle, unless it’s insured, you’re out $400 (plus your entire library).

How Kindle Could be Better

  1. Enable audio and ability to listen in car. This would kill my need to buy a traditional book again, and would be well worth the cost. In fact, I’d pay three times as much for each book if the audio version were included, in spite of the difficulties above. Then I could listen to books on my commute and read and reference books elsewhere. I’d even repurchase the books I’d already bought just so I could listen and/or read on my own terms, in my own time.
  2. Find a niche and feed it. One of the things I hated about college was lugging around what seemed like a ton of books across a large campus. The Kindle could eliminate the need for students to strain their backs. Partner with colleges to provide textbooks on the Kindle, offer a student discount for the device, and let this audience be the early adopters. Once they become accustomed to using the device because of the comparative advantage it really does offer them, I wonder if they would ever buy another traditional book in their lives. The great thing about this strategy is that there are always more students coming in, so the audience can grow organically.
  3. Sell insurance. The high replacement cost for the device and for the media is a huge barrier. Unless they can lower the cost of the device to under $100, they will have difficulties getting people to adopt a behavior to solve a problem most people don’t even believe they have.

One important thing to remember is that a book reader is not analogous to an iPod, so no one should make the mistake of drawing too close a comparison between the two devices. Music requires a listening device, while reading a book has traditionally required just a book – the only “reader” one needed was the education required to read and understand it.

What’s more, listening to music is an enjoyable, passive activity. Reading a book, while often enjoyable and stimulating, is an attention hog.

Partially because of these differences, people are more inclined to want access to hundreds, if not thousands of songs at any time. The average person is much less likely to want access to hundreds or thousands of books at one time. Therefore, the advantage gained by upgrading from a portable CD player to an iPod is much more significant than “upgrading” from a book to a book reader.

To create penetration, Amazon must provide more value than people are already receiving. The benefits that are offered by the Kindle are too few for average people. While I applaud them for making huge strides, they’ve got a ways to go before most people will eagerly throw their money at Amazon for the privilege of using their device. – Cam Beck

Does This Design Make Me Look Fat?

If you’re a regular visitor, you’ll probably notice we made a few changes around here. The old design is gone. We’re now using a different color pallet, a new header, and different content for our sidebar(s). Speaking of which, we added a new column to keep important information near the top.

What do you think?

  • Is the information you want to see easily to findand read?
  • Is the new design easy to use?
  • How do you like the new search feature we’ve added? Is it where you would want it?
  • Is anything missing that you would like to see?
  • Do you get ANY VALUE out of the calendar on this or any other blog?

If you would like anything changed, please leave a comment on this post. We would appreciate any feedback you are willing to give us. – Cam Beck

Are Personas Good or Evil?

132231799_f1b10d4557Ask 37 Signals: Personas? 
“We don’t use personas. We use ourselves. I believe personas lead to a false sense of understanding at the deepest, most critical levels.” (Credit a few people, including David Armano’stweet)

Use of Personas Boosts Conversion by 400%
“Countless once-skeptical businesses have changed their tune about personas [define]. The successes have been welldocumented, but a lot of smart people continue to scoff at the idea, thinking personas are a touchy-feely attempt to connect with customers on, like, a cosmic level — and that you’d have to be some kind of marketing hippy to waste budget on fluff like that.” (Credit Conversation Marketing)

Here’s My Take
37 Signals may be right in not creating personas, since they create their products for themselves and their needs first. However, since they’re in that position, I tend to believe that they may not have gone through the process necessary to really discover why people would consider creating personas.

Their answer certainly seems to belie a serious misunderstanding about them. They are considering personas through their own worldview, which, as we’ve discussed many times here, is replete with risks.

A persona isn’t really just a tool. It is an exercise. However, it can and should also be looked at as a shorthand sticky reference.  The best personas utilize interviews, focus groups, ethnographics, statistics, and other disparate research to help conceptualize the audience in concrete terms — particularly to people who haven’t gone through all of the steps performing and gathering all the research that went into building them.

Researchers could just lay out all the stacks of research before the team, but no one would read it and just as many would understand it all. – Cam Beck

Image by Jen the Librarian.