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The Right Colors Make Data Easier To Read

Harvard Business Review:

Color me interested, but I think anyone involved in user centered design understands the opportunity that use of color presents and the trap of visual overload when color is over-used or used inappropriately.

Originally posted on HBR Blog Network - Harvard Business Review:

What is the color of money? Of love? Of the ocean? In the United States, most people respond that money is green, love is red and the ocean is blue. Many concepts evoke related colors — whether due to physical appearance, common metaphors, or cultural conventions. When colors are paired with the concepts that evoke them, we call these “semantically resonant color choices.”

Artists and designers regularly use semantically resonant colors in their work. And in the research we conducted with Julie Fortuna, Chinmay Kulkarni, and Maureen Stone, we found they can be remarkably important to data visualization.

Consider these charts of (fictional) fruit sales:


The only difference between the charts is the color assignment. The left-hand chart uses colors from a default palette. The right-hand chart has been assigned semantically resonant colors. (In this case, the assignment was computed automatically using an algorithm that analyzes the colors in relevant…

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Tim Cook: 60+% of iPhone 4s and 5c buyers are ‘Android Switchers’

Steve Banfield:

I’ve been one of these stats in both directions a couple of times (and written about it) though I don’t accept Mr. Cook’s assertion that 60% are switching from Android to iPhone. That may be true, as it was for me, that they try an Android and jump back to iPhone when a new one comes out (Moto Razr to iPhone 5 for me), but has the iPhone 5 series and iOS 7 really been compelling enough for people to give up the pace of innovation on the Android platform? With a bunch of new devices at low low price points (the Moto X is now $350 with no contract at Amazon, and the OnePlus “Nexus Killer” will be sub-$300 off contract I just don’t see the iPhone winning new business. If the new rumors are true that the iPhone 6 form factor will be similar to today’s Nexus 5 then Apple is going to be playing catch-up in bringing a big-screen phone to market.

Unless Apple starts to innovate more quickly, where innovation is defined more broadly than “we made it smaller/thinner/shinier”, I see people moving away from iOS and iPhone, not toward it.

Originally posted on 9to5Mac:


The success of Apple’s low end phones, the 3.5-inch iPhone 4s and the colorful plastic 5c, has been questioned since the current lineup was launched last year. But in today’s earnings call,  Tim Cook might have just explained why Apple keeps the lower end devices in its stable: They bring in the lower-end Android crowd. Specifically Cook said 62% of iPhone 4s, which is usually free (or cheaper) with a plan in the US buyers and 60% of iPhone 5c buyers were switching from Android.

Cook previously compared Android to Europe in its fragmentation and had some harsh words for some of the low end Android tablets in enterprise saying Apple would never produce or label products of that low quality. 

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Why The Seattle Hub Is Special, Get Involved

Steve Banfield:

Impact Hub Seattle is a great resource for Pioneer Square and for all of Seattle. Definitely check out their events and co-working space.

Originally posted on People of Pioneer Square:

The Hub is an international Co Op of co working and community spaces for social enterprise. The Hub Seattle occupies the first two floors of the building, as such it is one of the largest of the 50 hubs in the world.

But this location is special. It is special because on the third floor is the headquarters of Social Venture Partners, a global non profit made up of tens of thousands of business professionals who use their business expertise to fund and mentor other non profits. One the fourth floor is the headquarters of the Bainbridge Graduate Institute, a ten year old, accredited business school, first in the world to teach a sustainable MBA. The Hub is also home to Unitus, SLOW Money Northwest, Fledge, and others.

Added together, it’s a pretty high concentration of social good.


Check out Fledge’s upcoming event: 

Demo Day

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Orange Is The New Red

I don’t do a lot of product “reviews” on here. Mostly I try to focus on what I’m using and why I’m using it. Occasionally I’ll try an experiment with a new device, or using something in a new way, for my own learning.

So I’ll do a quick departure for a “mini” review of the Nexus 5 Bumper Case from Google. Overall I like it, it feels good, protects the phone, blah blah blah, blah blah. It’s a bumper case, what more do you need?

Except it’s the wrong color. It’s not the wrong color because I ordered incorrectly, or Google didn’t ship the color I ordered. I ordered red. I got orange, and Google seems to think that’s red.

My new case is not just a single orange but in fact two-tone orange. It’s almost the shades of “safety orange” you wear in the woods around hunting season so you don’t get mistaken for a whitetail by someone with Winchester and bad eyesight.

Here’s the image from Google’s Play Store

That looks red to me. Not orange but definitely a vibrant, bright red. I didn’t notice before I ordered but you can see some element of the “two-tone” around the power button to the left of the camera lens. In the store Google just refers to this as “red” but in the URL for the store link it says “Nexus_5_Bumper_Case_Bright_Red”.

Now here are some shots I took of the case on my Nexus 5 in natural light using my Sony RX100 II.

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See the difference? I would have preferred a deeper, richer red instead of safety orange. I’ve gotten used to it and in the end it seems to be doing what I’d like it to do. It certainly makes my phone stand out.

Just make sure you know what color you want, or think you’ll get, before you order. Because to Google Orange isn’t the new black, it’s the new Red.


I’ve been traveling a lot over the last couple of months. New Orleans, NYC, Denver, Los Angeles and Singapore (pictures to follow). That has meant a lot of time out of the office, working from wherever I could get a cell or wifi signal to keep up with everything.

Right now that means a lot of email. I have three accounts that I check regularly (@rightside.co, @name.com and @gmail.com) collectively bombarding me with a couple hundred emails a day of reports, charts, blogs, newsletters, alerts and occasionally an actual message. Fortunately all my main accounts are Gmail based so I can get to them anywhere, and up until now I thought I did a pretty good job of staying on top of things.

At least I thought so before Singapore. The ICANN meeting there meant a 18 hour (each way) trip, passing through Tokyo Narita. No wi-fi on the plane, economy class seating. It was just impossible to pull out my laptop for “serious” work so I was left flipping through whatever had been synced up with my tablet and phone and that’s what really demonstrated to me I was managing my Gmail accounts all wrong.

Coming from years at Microsoft and Sony, I’d been indoctrinated into the world of Exchange and Outlook. Email was something you sent, received and especially organized. Folders became buckets for finding the thing you thought you might need sometime in the future when you couldn’t find it any other way depending on which place you’d put it into. So when I adopted Gmail for my personal account and used Google Apps accounts for work I just moved the same process over. I took full advantage of Gmail’s Label feature which when viewed over IMAP in Outlook or Mac Mail become folders. Mail comes in, mail gets moved. Touching every single email and collating it into a folder became the goal. “Inbox zero” wasn’t just about replying and deleting. It was about how quickly I could file things into the right box. No matter how efficient I thought I was at this, or how many folders I created or deleted to hold all that old email my Inbox, strangely enough, stayed full.

Fighting with the Android and iOS clients on the long, disconnected flights finally drove home to me that Labels and Folders were just creating more work than they were worth. Getting to a folder view on a mobile mail client meant a menu tap or exit out of a unified Inbox, then thumb scrolling down and down to find the just the right folder. In the Gmail app it still meant find the “Change Labels” option and scrolling down an ever longer list of labels all designed to make my life easier “later” when I might need that email again. Tap, scroll, tap again. Back, tap, Inbox, scroll, read, tap, scroll, tap to file, back, ad nauseum.

I was fighting the wrong battle. Most of my time was spent dealing with information NOW, not later. It was the fear of losing something that kept me trying to organize all that old mail even though I rarely, if ever, reopened those old folders. Why was I wasting time today to save time to organize something I might never even need? Why was I spending precious time organizing information when Google had already spent billions building tools to do it for me?

Just after I returned I sat in another hotel room (it was a busy travel month) and removed every label from my accounts. No more trying to sort emails by business partner or vendor, project or team. No more ever growing list of event labels, release labels or competitor labels. No filters. No more Thunderbird, Mac Mail or Outlook. Just Gmail in all it’s web based glory and no folders beyond Inbox, Sent, Archived and Trash. I gave up my fight for “organization” and threw myself into the simplicity of Read, Archive or Delete. Google is a search company an I embraced it completely.

I became unlabeled.

Now when I receive an email I have just three options upon reading it. I can Delete it and never worry about it again. I can Reply to it. I can simply Archive it knowing Gmail search will find whatever I need without me having to impose order on the chaos. Add a few Google Labs gadgets to email (Send & Archive is a favorite) and now I can power through email with fewer options, but more speed in doing so. Reply, Delete or Archive. That’s it.

Abandoning such an ingrained folder habit wasn’t without some trepidation on my part. One thing I worried about was my ability to find, for example, receipts that had been emailed to me over the last year as I finished my taxes. In previous years there had always been a “tax” or “receipt” label that I’d taken the time to carefully apply so I can retrieve each one as I added up deductions. Would I be able to find everything easily or be desperately digging at the 11th hour?

Finding every single email was incredibly easily, so much so that I can’t imagine every going back to the old way of managing email. Many people don’t realize, and I discovered by doing, that Gmail has pretty advanced search functions for finding emails not only by sender or subject, but within date ranges or even by what words aren’t included. Once you master how to structure the search terms it’s super easy to find exactly what you’re looking for. You’ll still page through the results to find the exact email you want, but I was doing that anyway in the old folder system.

Getting rid of folders and trusting search may not be for everyone. For the volume of email I’m dealing with it’s been a huge benefit to my productivity and sanity.

98104: Responsiveness, And Why We Don’t Have It

Steve Banfield:

great post on the challenges of truly engaged leadership from local government and the territorial attitudes that keep neighborhoods from working together to improve everyone’s lives

Originally posted on People of Pioneer Square:


In this country, citizens across a broad spectrum of diverse backgrounds don’t often come together over a cause. We just don’t organize much anymore. Our rights and liberties were bought and fought for some time ago. Or so we think –

We expect our water and electricity to just work. We expect to easily cross neighborhood boundaries for markets, brunches, or parks without incident. We hope our voting mechanisms work, and when they don’t, we are outraged – and tell everyone on Facebook things should be different.

Generally speaking, most citizens have very little insight to what government actually does. And government probably feels that citizens are entitled, complacent, and whiney. Both perspectives are accurate.

This didn’t just happen, it’s been in the works for a very long time. The system in which we operate (society/neighborhoods and government) are not really designed for openness and responsiveness. They are designed to run as efficiently as possible for…

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Moore’s law gives way to Bezos’s law

Steve Banfield:

50% price reduction every three years — definitely an interesting idea to map against future computing needs for any business, and product planning requirements in datacenter and online service build outs

Originally posted on Gigaom:

Cloud providers Google(s GOOG), Amazon(s AMZN)Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft(s MSFT) are doing some spring-cleaning, and it’s out with the old, in with the new when it comes to pricing services. The latest cuts make it clear there’s a new business model driving cloud that is every bit as exponential in growth — with order of magnitude improvements to pricing — as Moore’s Law has been to computing.

If you need a refresher, Moore’s Law is “the observation that, over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years.” I propose my own version, Bezos’s law. Named for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, I define it as the observation that, over the history of cloud, a unit of computing power price is reduced by 50 percent approximately every three years.

I’ll show the math below, but if Bezos’ law reflects reality, the only conclusion…

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Dear Mr. Banfield,

Just over a month ago I witnessed a crime. It was a violent, unprovoked assault carried out by three people against a homeless man, all in the name of “respecting” the Firefighter’s Memorial in Occidental Park. I wrote about it here and it was reported by local news organizations as well. Eventually the incident garnered enough visibility that the Mayor had to respond.

Mr. Bennett Barr, correspondence writer for the Mayor’s office (his title according to his email signature) reached out to me after reading my blog post that had been reprinted in Crosscut.com. His email from March 25th is below.

Dear Mr. Banfield,

I read your article in Crosscut this morning, and wanted to follow up with you.  When I responded to your letter about the beating in Pioneer Square, I included the Mayor’s recent statement on the incident.  But that was not the entirety of our response.

When that response was sent to you on the 20th, I also forwarded the letters we received, including yours, to the Seattle Fire Department and the Seattle Police Department.  I thought it was important that both these departments understand the anger and frustration, as well as the sense of betrayal, thisincident elicited among residents.  I asked that the Seattle Fire Department respond directly to some residents and that this response include both an apology and a description of the steps the SFD will take to make sure this doesn’t happen again.   For the handful of letters, including yours, expressing concern at the SPD’s responsiveness to this incident, I asked the SPD to reply directly to these concerns and explain to residents why there seemed to be a delayed and insufficient response to the incident.  I directed that responses by the SFD and SPD be copied to the Mayor’s office, both to highlight the seriousness of the issue and so that the Mayor’s office can follow up directly with residents if we think these responses are in any way inadequate.

When I made these correspondence requests of SFD and SPD, I established a deadline for a response of 10 business days.  So, you will be receiving additional responses to your letter late next week.

All the best, and please let me know if you have any questions.

Bennett Barr
Correspondence Writer
City of Seattle, Office of the Mayor

Then nothing. Despite Mr. Barr’s email no one from SPD, SFD or the Mayor’s office has reached out to me to follow up on my concerns about the city’s response to the incident and the policing strategy in Pioneer Square around major sporting events. No emails and no phone calls.

The only person to seemed to care enough to contact me was a private investigator for one of the accused hoping to determine their client’s potential criminal liability.

That’s not to say the Mayor has done absolutely nothing, just almost nothing. In the last month the Mayor has apologized and promised to evaluate his options. He has led a “Stand for Compassion” event at the site of the attack, which from the accounts I’ve read was more oriented towards feeling bad for the homeless and good about ourselves than any serious consideration of the challenges within Pioneer Square. One blogger described it as the scene from “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” where all the Who’s in Whoville held hands around the tree.

Then earlier this month the Mayor organized a “Seattle Neighborhood Summit“, the highlights of which were almost zero Seattle police presence and the Mayor having to “shush” the audience thanks to a horribly planned agenda and venue selection. No discussion of the incident. No response to the de-policing of Pioneer Square. No focus on making Seattle’s downtown safe for everyone.

His Honor’s time could have been much better spent.

Now the King County prosecutor has now decided not to pursue felony charges against the three people arrested in connection with the incident due to “lack of evidence”. When no one actually talks to the witnesses it’s easy to decide there’s insufficient evidence. When the administration doesn’t want to see two Seattle Fire Department officers on felony assault charges, you don’t go looking reasons to charge them.

So we have a violent attack by two Seattle Fire Department officers on a homeless man in broad daylight in downtown where Seattle Police took forty minutes to finally respond to the 911 call, the TV cameras have come and gone, the Mayor’s wrung his hands about it and promised action but done nothing but hold hands and sing songs, Seattle Fire has yet to disclose how the attackers will be disciplined, and now the Prosecutor’s Office have washed their hands as well.

This is, in a word, unacceptable.

My original “letter to the Mayor” post tried to use the attack as an example of why the lack of police presence in Pioneer Square around major sporting events (in this case a Seattle Sounders game) was a dangerous failure of Mayor Murray’s administration. It was also a failure that could be easily addressed, making Pioneer Square safer for residents and visitors alike.

But it’s more than just an issue of policing strategy now. I’d like to think that years of binge watching The Wire hasn’t made me completely cynical about big city politics but after seeing this, perhaps I should be. If Mayor Murray was serious about public safety then the firefighters in question would already be fired, SPD would have explained publicly why it took them 40 minutes to respond, the Mayor would have delivered a plan on how the police presence around major events (Seahawks and Sounders games, etc) would be adjusted and the prosecutor’s office would have taken pursuit of the attack seriously. None of those things have happened.

Until this Mayor actually does something besides shush the crowd then Seattle won’t be safe nor our citizens treated with respect.


Flickr Friday: An Old Favorite

marblehead overlook

I took this picture in 1997, during my time in Boston for business school. It’s a scan from a slide of a series of photos around Marblehead, MA. Every time I see these old photos, including the one that became the inspiration for The End of the Point jacket cover, it reminds me of ocean breezes, warm summers and crisp fall days exploring New England.