Program for the Future Conference

Here’s another event worth noting:

The Program for the Future Conference is “An Invitation to Innovation. An interactive conference inspired by Doug Engelbart’s vision of harnessing technology for human betterment. “

The conference takes place Monday (12/08/08) at The Tech Museum of Innovation and Adobe Headquarters in San Jose, and then on Tuesday (12/09/08) at Stanford University. And for those of us who are not on the West Coast, we can attend both days in Second Life. Register now before all the FREE virtual tickets are taken!

Featured speakers include

    • Professor Thomas Malone, Founding Director, MIT Center for Collective Intelligence
    • Professor Hiroshi Ishii, Associate Director, MIT Media Laboratory
    • Peter Norvig, Director of Research, Google
    • Andries van Dam, Professor, Brown University
    • Alan Kay, President, Viewpoints Research Institute
    • Steve Wozniak, co-founder, Apple Computer, Inc.

Plus an impressive list of other speakers that is essentially a “Who’s Who in Computing.”

This should be an extremely valuable two days for anyone interested in where technology is heading. I’ve got my virtual ticket and my avatar, Rebekah Cavan, and I will be there both days.

Reworking the User Experience at the Genius Bar

I went to the Apple store a few days ago and was blown away by the user experience. The staff is knowledgeable and approachable, and once they’ve thoroughly answered your questions and you’re ready to make a purchase, they simply pull out their handheld device, scan the products, scan your card, and send you happily on your way. No need to stand in long pre-Christmas lines. This is cool for two reasons: it makes the buyer’s life easier, but it also clinches the sale immediately. Standing in a long line gives the buyer the opportunity to second guess whether or not they really want to drop a couple hundred dollars. Immediate purchase ensures the credit card is scanned while the buyer is still in the warm glow of an enthusiastic, helpful salesperson.

But they’re not salespeople. They’re Geniuses. They work at a Genius Bar, not a customer service desk. A genius inspires confidence in a way that a salesperson cannot. And a “bar” suggests an openness that a “desk” does not. Putting those two words together was a brilliant idea. “Yes, we’re geniuses. But we’re not intimidating. C’mon over to the bar and let’s chat.” It gives a sense of getting a useful explanation of a complicated subject, while chatting with a friend over a latte. A little bit of genius rubs off and you walk away feeling good about technology that you previously didn’t understand.

Oh, and if you happen to be paying by check or cash and have to stand in line, they have a way cool way to pass the time. The screens (which are extremely readable) behind the Genius Bar give you changing information to read while you wait. A glossary defines terms (bandwidth came up while I was there), there are quick how-to snippets for your Apple products, and random interesting facts.

In the Christmas Eve hecticity of mall shopping, I found this to be a soothing little oasis.

It also led me to wonder about the “Reference Desk” moniker. Can’t that be renamed to reflect it’s purpose as THE place to go for information provided by friendly, approachable, knowledgeable people?