Michael Quirke

Mostly nattering on user experience and how brands can fit into society.


This 5-year old was born without fingers in his right hand, but now he uses a robohand, which you can see in action in this amazing YouTube video. 3D printers built his robohand, and here’s how: http://ars.to/11uvUCx

(via emergentfutures)

Path: Counting Sheep with Path Data Science

Very cute analysis here of Sleep Patterns According to Path. I gave up Path-ing goodnight kisses and morning yawns a while back, but this really is interesting.


The average person spends roughly a third of their life asleep. Path, the journal of your life, would be incomplete without a way to track those quiet hours. So we’ve taken a closer look.

According to Hyun Hor and Mehdi Tafti at Université de Lausanne in Switzerland (2009), the amount of sleep…

Top line:

  • People sleep just under 8 hours on average  (I am shocked. V rare I get this long)
  • Young ‘uns sleep longer, old ‘uns sleep shorter - about an average 35min’s difference
  • Gym people get a good night’s sleep despite rising early, because they bed bang on 12.

There’s a lesson for you.

2 years ago - 98 -

FastCompany - Ketchup Flow

Go on then, this has officially become a sore point now. What is Fast Company if it is not Leadership? Or Social Responsibility? Or Creativity? And what is Design if not Creation? 

Link posted above is just a nice example of a FastCo article. They’ve got some great content - always fascinating, and really well curated. As well as some beautiful design ideas (c.f.: the way the date becomes an icon in itself down the side). Seriously, this could be the benchmark for how a magazine operates online.

The past year or so has seen it divide out its brand: from FastCo and CoDesign (genius) to the array above. Check out the site nav if you don’t know the names, because it’s painful to repeat them. It’s now suffering from ‘sub-branditis’. The splitting of content under different channels, even if they get gathered on the front page, just makes it - in my opinion - awkward to decipher what Fast Company is itself. 

For examples of similar, see how P&G and Unilever built themselves on product brand and now have raced to make sure they’re seen as providing something usable as a masterbrand themselves (‘https://www.pgproudsponsorofmums.co.uk/”). There’s usually a unique promise at the core of the masterbrand that sub-brands should work to retain, mould and play off.

Fast Company’s is (or should be) that it provides agile thinking for businesses large and small. This means ideas like innovation in sbusiness, how to organise teams to get test projects done faster with minimal risk, what real social entrepreneurship looks like, how visionary CEOs work.

One of its issues is that it’s acting like a masterbrand but by splitting out sub-brands it’s reduced itself to sub-brand status. They provide content in a list; it provides content in a list; they’re psychologically all on the same level.

Design is fair enough to split out: it’s a fluffy side of business which really stretches the idea of a “Fast Company”. Fast Company provides the harder stuff; Co.Design provides the pure hipster-spectacles and beard Pantone stuff. Beautiful.

Co.Exist even is a neat idea: it’s all the CSR stuff bundled into one place, like Good.is but readable. I liked this when it was split out: it was a bit of a strain but it kind of made sense.

Co.Create I have no idea what they’re doing with. It’s just too dark and abstract an idea, though I’m sure it made sense somewhere in creation. It’s the Culture section, but could’ve just as easily have folded under Co.Design.

Co.Lead is the last straw: fair enough, should be there as a regular feature (extension of the “60-second MBA” series), but not a sub-brand. It should be exactly what’s contained as Fast Company; and so the clash between the magazine and the online content not made strangely apparent.

Two cents on that. Let’s see if it’s a test and they move differently.

Over and out,


P.S. The article was chosen at random. But it looks fun.

2 years ago -

TED's Connected City #thecity2

City2.org, the TED Prize project site, is now up and running, pulling together local content from all over Santa Barbara.

The philosophy is grander than the current site itself: http://www.tedprize.org/. In sum -

Help shape your city.

You can forge a new urban outlook. Begin by connecting. Imagine a platform that brings you together, locally and globally. Combine the reach of the cloud with the power of the crowd. Connect leaders, experts, companies, organizations and citizens. Share your tools, data, designs, successes, and ideas. Turn them into action.

Together you can:

  • Bridge the gap between poor and rich communities.
  • Spectacularly reduce your carbon footprint.
  • Make nature part of daily life.
  • Empower entrepreneurship.
  • Re-imagine education.
  • Nurture health.

It’s Big Society carried through to a workable platform. They’ve got Razorfish behind the site, so tremendous talent. I’m hoping in the near future they’ll streamline the content, but for now the premise is interesting. Would be great to see it not go the (slightly cumbersome) way of www.streetlife.com

2 years ago - 1 -
A New Home.

A New Home.


Design: Magazines

Best designed magazine websites:






Bloomberg Businessweek




Prize for best site ever:

Fast Company

Prize for close fails:

Wired.com (wired.co.uk is better) - What is this site optimised for? Epic-o-vision? Nobody needs headlines that big and the entire layout is confusing for anyone but the most patient iPadder; curate, Wired, curate and categorise - look to your little brother)

Prize for ambiguous still:

Huffington Post - excellent example of sensationalist newspaper design, however, and their NewsGlide innovation is astonishing

Prize for eye-flaw failure:

The (newish) Times - The Sunday Times site is fantastic: neatly categorised, visually appealing, you can always see what you’re looking for, or indeed browse what you aren’t; I see what they have done with The Times but it’s such a shame the layout is so dense and too close to newspaper format to take full advantage of the digital space. Very frustrating.

Yours with coffee,

MQ / Atlas x

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Applied Behavioral Economics from Gallup

Could your company outperform its competitors by 85% in sales growth and 25% gross margin? A group of Gallup clients achieved this competitive advantage by applying our behavioral economic principles.

Have you ever wondered:

  • why a satisfied customer defects to the competition?
  • why a customer would pay more to purchase a product when other, less expensive options are available?
  • why an employee would willingly forego a salary increase or a promotion to continue to do a job at which she excels?

For years, executives have struggled to make sense of seemingly irrational employee and customer actions like these. The answer lies in understanding human nature — and that human beings do not always behave rationally.

Through extensive research — including millions of interviews with customers and employees around the world — Gallup has unlocked the secret to driving higher levels of growth and profitability in today’s hypercompetitive, global environment.

Our Value
Applying Behavioral Economic Principles to Drive Success

At Gallup, we take the discoveries made within the scientific discipline of behavioral economics and apply them to management and business problems. We have tested tools and methods to measure and manage both the rational and irrational elements of human nature to drive business success. Our solutions address how altering customer and employee behaviors can create real growth and prosperity.

Learn More

To learn how the principles of behavioral economics can help your organization achieve higher levels of performance, visit the areas below:

To learn more about how individualizing your organization’s approach to managing employees and customers can unlock your company’s maximum potential and profitability, contact us.

I’ll admit, I hadn’t heard of Gallup until today, but their site is smart and good-looking if a little disorganised. [I don’t judge entirely by looks, but ultimately if anyone wants information they can go anywhere - make your site good.]

There is a lot to post on, including yesterday’s New Media Forum in Oxford. Thank you to Nazneen and Svitlana for making that possible.

I shall have to post later, however. Enjoy the article for the mean time and buy Boris’ single on Monday:

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The Trustworthiness of Beards

"Erotic Capital" from LSE & The Observer

In sum: a sociology doctor at LSE has announced that people with more ‘erotic capital’ do better in the workplace, earning 10-15% more than less erotic counterparts.
I don’t usually post on trendy (/sensationalist) news topics, but this seemed worthy of a little open rant.

Erotic capital is not defined fully in the article, but a brief search for the doctor’s LSE webpage turns up this:


Beyond the allurement of seeing “erotic.aspx” at the end there, the page defines ‘erotic capital’ as primarily based on six factors:

Sexual attractiveness
Social attractiveness
Sexuality (capacity/proficiency)

After a little while it seems a useful term to sum up what we now know as the ‘X’ factor, but with the advantage of not conjuring associations with Simon Cowell. Beyond qualifications and talent / competence, it seems a good third fork of social and professional success.

Dr Hakim comments: “People who possess an above-average amount of erotic capital are more persuasive, are more often perceived as honest and competent. ”

Although I remain unconvinced that the one leads to the other (what is the ‘erotic capital’ except the combined powers of persuasion, confidence and social competence?), the ‘honesty’ bit is interesting. It is certainly true that we are naturally astonishingly quick to attribute moral or professional fault to someone who seems unfit, unpersuasive or ugly even with a great weight of evidence in their favour.

I’ll leave it there and would be interested to hear people’s thoughts on the article.
It is satisfying coincidence that I watched both Morena Baccarin’s “V” and new Mila Kunis/Jason Bateman film “Extract” last night; the one dealing with Reptilians getting their way through sheer alluring beauty + grace, the other with Mila Kunis surreptitiously wrecking JB’s life with the same.

Attributing honesty to a hot bod is a common cultural topos, but it’s still something we prefer to accept in ourselves rather than correct, despite from the outside it making us look stupid and weak. The fact is, particularly in a professional context, there is more value in a pretty and persuasive face: in an age where authority, elitism and manly belligerence is increasingly looked down upon, it is exactly these elements of soft power we have to replace them with.

Here’s to hotness,


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Behavioural Econ :: Jesse Schell’s DICE Incredible Speech

This video has been floating round the Internet for around 6-7 weeks now, but it had to be posted here and must be seen. Jesse Schell, an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon, discusses how the future of gaming rewards principles might have incredible impact on the real world. Please do watch.


Any of my close friends will know that I have been caught up in quite a few popular economic science books recently (‘Nudge’, ‘Herd’, ‘Blink’, ‘Influence’ in particular). Following Rory Sutherland’s speech about 3 pages further down along this blog, this also takes shocking discoveries of how people *actually* behave (behavioural economics - versus how we think we behave as ‘Rational Beings’) but ties them in with what developments can be seen in Facebook Gaming, the increase of social gaming (even on consoles, w Achievements) and the sheer popularity of real-life wish fulfilment / self-improvement hardware and software in modern times over fantasy-based wish-fulfilment and lack of authenticity.

For those watching, I also looked up Playfish and tried out their latest game - Hotel City. Coming from a cynical perspective, where I’m aware of most of the psychological and Interaction / Information Design cons set out, this caused such sheer terror that I had to close it after a couple of minutes. It is terrifically designed.

To top this off, I also present the trailer for upcoming series “Happy Town”:

Anyone who’s played Heavy Rain might recognise similarities. Anyone who remembers ‘Littletop’, my ingenious web idea from school, may also recognise similarities. I personally cannot wait to see it, dodgy killer names and all.

This double-dosage, I think, calls for a dance of joy.


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