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On Murder and Being an Individual in the Future.

If we were in the future, and at this moment I was copied, exactly atom by atom, my experiences, my memories, my consciousness, and after one second as i look at my copy in disbelief, I am shot and killed, or disintegrated by some weapon, that would be murder. the “my original self” is killed.
However, (assuming there was teleportation technology that cannot transfer matter) if I voluntarily stepped inside a capsule that transferred my consciousness/memories to another place, while my atoms were rebuilt exactly the same in another place while my old body is separated, that would be fine, I was just teleporting myself. and I am still the only one … am I the same individual??
copy+paste….cut+paste: is this the difference between being the same individual or not?
What about murder..?The only difference is …one second, or the existence of both individuals at the same time near each other. that is the difference between brutal murder and just teleportation? or is it the fact that the act of being disintegrated is volunteer or not? Would it be a form of eutanasia?

How to get Monbukagakusho Scholarship

I’ve been meaning to write this a long long time ago, but only now I was able to do it…

This is not a fail-proof way to get the scholarship, of course. Of course many of these guidelines also apply on how to get other scholarships, but this is specifically about the japanese government scholarship –  monbukagakusho shougakukin.

First, just to explain why I think I can give you any kind of advice… well, I got one, that’s why. I am from Portugal, by the way. I applied for a PhD Scholarship and was ranked first of the 3 people selected to receive the 3 scholarships that were available for my country in 2011. – no I am not studying japanese culture/language ( currently a PhD student at Keio University – Graduate School of Media Design), and no, I don’t speak fluent Japanese, or even intermediate for that matter.

Disclaimer: My insights were valid for Portugal in 2011. I assume they have it pretty standardized, but different countries might have different criteria. They sure do have different number of scholarships available ( Portugal: 3, Philippines: 25).

So, let’s get on with the important stuff:

First I will explain what ACTUALLY happens, and what stages you need to go through, as the process is all but clear.

1 – Apply to the scholarship, deliver all the paperwork

2- If you pass the first selection, you will be called to do an interview, english test (piece of cake) and japanese test (you don’t need to know any japanese and leave it blank, of course if you do, it helps I guess). Usually only around 9 people will be selected for this second stage.

3- If selected, the embassy will cal you informing you. This basically means you’re going to japan, but it’s not 100% sure, so they won’t tell you. By “going to Japan I mean: any university they might decide to place you in, if you’re not accepted at the one you want.

4-  send the docs that you delivered at the embassy to the university(ies) that you wish to apply to, so they can send you back the letter of acceptance.

5- Give the letter(s) to your embassy and they will send it to the japanese government.

6- the government will place everyone in japanese universities, as research students, according to their preference and budget for that year.

7- In February of next year you will be informed where you were placed.Yes it is the longest wait ever, and stressful because you have no idea if you’re going to be placed or not. But I would say, don’t be stressed, you 99% sure will unless there are serious budget cuts.

8 – you go to japan to learn japanese for 1 semester, and then be a research student next semester.  Theoretically that is… You should do Whatever your adviser tells you to. If he says “you don’t need japanese lessons”, you won’t do it. If he says “you don’t need to be research student” you won’t be. You might start your program on the semester after you get to japan, instead of 1 year after.


9 – Because you are just a research student, you need to do the admission exams to be a real Master or PhD student. Don’t forget that acceptance letter was just acceptance as research student. 


Note that the scholarship you got, whether  you applied for PhD or Masters, is going to be a Research Student scholarship for 2 years after you arrive in Japan. Later on after you’re in Japan you will apply for the extension of scholarship as a master (2 years after you start Master program) or phd student (3 years after you start the PhD program).


Now that I told you all that is really happening, I will give some tips on how to get selected in the first place. Note that my area is Technology/Design/Urbanism – this may not apply to every study fields.

First you nee to know that you are competing with EVERYONE for the same scholarships: masters, research students and PhD candidates. You don’t need to be the best in the world to get this scholarship, you just need to be better than everyone else who is applying. Of course to do that, you need to aim to be the best in the world.

Every tip here might inscrease your change of getting it by as little as 0,5%. but if you add them up they might become 5%  – and that may be the difference between you and the next guy who didn’t get it.

I’ll do it very straight to the point in bullet format:

– Talk to, and make sure you have advisors as soon as possible – this is Very important, because means you won’t have trouble finding one later on.


– before choosing 3 universities when you deliver the documents, check the next step (getting the acceptance letter) as some universities won’t write you acceptance letter if you apply to it as ONE AND ONLY option.  It is a risk, yes, but this is how they know you are really motivated to go there. They even do this for famous elementary schools. And Keio university certainly does that.


-Because I choose a private university and was afraid that because of the great east japan earthquake there would be budget cuts, I asked my advisor to write a letter that i could annex to the documents sent to the japanese govt, explaining why I should go to that particular school. It doesn’t hurt trying – university professors are very respected in Japan.  Statistics say that 30% of people have been placed in private universities, which is very reassuring, because I imagine most people apply for national universities.

 – the initial selection is not done by the japanese government, but by the embassy. I don’t know who (if people from your country or japanese do it,but they don’t send anything to japan before they selected the few people who will receive it)


About the research plan: it is all about psychology and people. Ultimately people will choose you, not a machine.

– Don’t write more than 2-3 pages. 5 maximum. I wanted to write 3 but limited myself to only 2 pages. Really, no one reads more than 2 or 3. Imagine if you work at the embassy and have to read 10 pages x 50 applicants. you’d soon be skipping through information in a 10 page long plan.


–  Put a Chronogram (aka Gantt chart) in there. Tell them what you think you will do for the next 2 or 3 years. They will know your ideas are organized and you know what you’re doing. – this is a major thing, really. They want leaders, smart and confident people, not otaku who will come to japan to read manga. 


– Use Cialdini’s principles of persuasion. For example, contact professors of other, recognized, universities, and ask them about your project. if they are interested in collaboration or how relevant they think it is. You’ll be surprised on how open and reachable they can be.   – principle of authority


– Tell them why Japan and not any other country. And also the benefits of your research towards:  a) your country ; b) Japan ; c) Society as a whole.   – this paragraph is also important for your interview, it is a typical question. 


– You may notice they don’t ask for your CV, which in my case was bad because I cam from a different area and my professional experience was much more relevant that my academic one. So what I suggest is that you give them your CV anyway, if you have something relevant to add. 


– At the interview you cannot get a computer in there and you’re not supposed to make a presentation) Still,I prepared a printed presentation to better explain them about my research, because my proposal was only 2 pages long.


– Don’t forget to dress properly for the interview. The kid before me was wearing shorts.. In japan everyone uses suit and tie, even high school kids. I cannot stress how important this is. there will most certainly be one or more japanese people doing your interview.


– My interview was done by 2 portuguese and 1 japanese. They may ask you to say something in japanese if you know, so it doesn’t hurt to have something prepared, because you will be nervous if this is the chance to make your dream of coming to Japan come true.



To add I can only say Japan is an amazing country, with the most amazing and friendly people. Of course there is sometimes small discrimination towards foreigners, but nothing serious, and Japan is not perfect, and is not as the cartoons portray it, so don’t come here expecting spaceships or robots, or you will be disappointed. – actually scratch that, there are robots here! 🙂


If you treat Japan right, it will treat you good as well and you will spend here the best time of your life.


Good luck!

my new blog: ux tokyo


Check out my new blog:



it’s all about User experience in cities, cultural differences, interface and interaction design.

It’s also about travels and my experience around the world.

Eerie Trees

The Funambulist has rescued this week an impressive piece of architecture without architects from last year. The monsoon flood of July 2010 left 2,000 casualties in Sindh region, Pakistan, and forced more than 20 million people out from their homes. One-fifth of the country’s total area was under water (the equivalent to the whole size of England). Spiders could not find any other way to survive, but to climb up on trees. The extreme concentration of arachnids at these points turned those trees into completely cocooned structures, with endlessly overlapping spider webs. The fact of being surrounded by a vast area of stagnant waters provided them with more than enough succulent mosquitoes, and thereby reducing the risk of a malaria epidemic; locals reported fewer mosquitoes than it would have been expected after such a disaster. Photographer Russell Watkins captured in these swamped areas webs which were sometimes even stretching from tree to tree. As he witnessed: <It was an extraordinary sight, really quite spooky and surreal. Seemingly endless lakes of mill-pond-calm water, with cotton-candy trees reflected like mirrors. It was both beautiful and disturbing. As we talked to local people, dozens of tiny spiders were dropping out of the trees, onto our heads, over the camera. I think they were white crab spiders, just a few millimeters long, and not harmful – almost imperceptible.>

A lack of sunlight killed most trees, since multiple webs acted as an opaque veil over them. When the waters began to recede, displaced villagers tried to resettle their communities. The scarce amount of remaining trees led nonetheless to a lack of natural sun shelters against scorching temperatures.

Despite the shiver that they might provoke on the viewer at first sight, these images only show an  spatial consequence of the much larger extent of an still on-going tragedy.

via: deconcrete


The Battle for Control of Smart Cities

Will tech-powered cities revolutionize the way we live or hand corporations the keys to our privacy? A new study by the Rockefeller Foundation offers conclusions.

Who will own the brains of smart cities–citizens or corporations? At stake is an impending massive trove of data, not to mention issues of privacy, services, and inclusion. The battle may be fought in the streets between bands of Jane Jacobs-inspired hacktivists pushing for self-serve governance and a latter-day Robert Moses carving out monopolies for IBM or Cisco instead of the Triborough Bridge Authority. Without a delicate balance between the scale of big companies and the DIY spirit of “gov 2.0” champions, the urban poor could be the biggest losers. Achieving that balance falls to smarter cities’ mayors, who must keep the tech heavyweights in check and “frame an agenda of openness, transparency and inclusivness.”

Those are some of the conclusions of “The Future of Cities, Information, and Inclusion,” a 10-year forecast commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation and published this morning by the Institute for the Future. “Without this catalyst for cooperation,” the authors conclude, “we may repeat the devastating urban conflicts of the 20th century that pitted central planners like Robert Moses against community activists like Jane Jacobs.” Befitting the Foundation’s focus on the world’s poorest and what it calls “smart globalization,” the report’s emphasis is on smartening up cities in the developing world–cities that lack both data about their swelling populations and the tools needed to make sense of it. The roster of expert contributors comprises a who’s who of ubiquitous computing and gov 2.0 types, including MIT Senseable City Lab director Carlo Ratti, Everyware author Adam Greenfield, the Santa Fe Institute’s Nathan Eagle, Intel Labs Director Genevieve Bell, Microsoft Research’s Jonathan Donner, and San Francisco CIO Chris Vein.

Together, they highlight five “technologies that matter” for cities in 2020: mobile broadband; smart personal devices, whether they’re dirt-cheap phones or tablets; government-sponsored cloud computing (modeled on the U.K.’s national “G-cloud” initiative); open-source public databases to promote grassroots innovation, and “public interfaces.” Instead of Internet cafés, imagine an outdoor LED screen and hacked Kinect box allowing literally anyone to access the Net using only gestures.

The report’s centerpiece is a map depicting how these technologies might be applied across 13 scenarios, from something as simple as on-demand census counting (to track the influx of urban immigration) to crowdsourced public services (best exemplified in the U.S. bySeeClickFix, the subject of a profile in the December/January issue of Fast Company) to high-resolution, real-time models of urban processes.

None of these developments are unambiguously good, stresses Anthony Townsend, director of technology development at IFTF and the report’s lead author. Data-rich models might offer residents a chance to see how congestion pricing might effect the volume of traffic on their street, or they might be harnessed by technocrats in places like China or Singapore to further tighten their grip on how cities function. Crowdsourcing carries its own complications, adds Townsend. “It’s cooperation versus offloading: cities shoveling off service delivery onto citizen groups” in a social media successor to business improvement districts, “while in the developing world, you’re going to have governments that never provided services to begin with” leaving the crowd to fend for themselves in the name of empowerment.

“Those tensions come up in every discussion,” Townsend says, whether it’s privacy versus the public good, collecting data versus parsing it, and guaranteeing access to all citizens versus carving out virtual gated communities and corporate enclaves. “You could imagine a world with a lot of preventative measures to stop smoking or stop obesity from spreading through social networks–which we know to be true,” he says. “Or you could use this information to deny them health insurance or even access to parts of the city. There are ways all of these can play out as either dystopia or utopia.”

In that regard, “The Future of Cities, Information, and Inclusion” is the highest-profile critique to date of the bright green rhetoric from companies like IBM, Siemens or Cisco, which have seized the chance to pad their top lines with government sales while corporate IT customers stockpile mountains of cash. In what the report calls the “Battle for the Smart City:”

Global technology companies are offering “smart city in a box” solutions. Governments are responding to their pitch: a smarter, cleaner, safer city. But there is no guarantee that technology solutions developed in one city can be transplanted elsewhere. As firms compete to corner the government market, cities will benefit from innovation. But if one company comes out on top, cities could see infrastructure end up in the control of a monopoly whose interests are not aligned with the city or its residents.

But cities need them, too. Government officials just need to avoid being sold a bill of goods. “You could say the residents of Caracas elect their leaders, and those leaders should be imposing their agenda on any company they do business with,” Townsend says. “But at the end of the day, these company want to solve problems, and they have a lot of resources to bring to bear. What’s going on right now at the grassroots level isn’t scalable or sustainable yet, and that’s what these corporate campaigns bring to the table. The map is a call-to-arms for leaders at any level–they need to become better customers of the IT industry.”

Via: FastCompany

Interaction ’11 Keynotes

February of this year saw the IxDA’s fourth Interaction conference, held in Boulder, Colorado. And a couple of months back, the IxDA published the recordings from the conference, including all seven keynote presentations.

If you couldn’t make it to the conference itself, these videos give a great flavor of the event. They give us a chance to take a step back from the day-to-day reality of what it is that we do, and to immerse ourselves in some different big-picture perspectives. They provide plenty of food for thought, and not a little inspiration. So for your enjoyment, here they are.

Bill Verplank—Opening Keynote

Bill Verplank is one of the fathers of interaction design. He worked at Xerox PARC on the first desktop interfaces and went on to do interaction design at IDEO, and at Interval Research, he worked on haptics and innovative design methods. More recently he has been lecturing in human factors, UI design, and new music controllers.

In this talk (the entire duration of which he sketches what he is talking about), Bill covers a lot of ground, and gives us several ways of looking at and thinking about things. For example:

  • Asking “How do you…?” questions (do, feel, know)
  • Should a control be a button or a handle?
  • Should an interface be more like a path or more like a map?
  • Different types of thinking: enactive (doing), iconic (seeing), and symbolic (knowing)
  • Is software a tool, a medium, or a vehicle?
  • Machines as part of evolution

Erik Hersman

In the West, there is a general perception of Africa as a basket-case continent—poor, corrupt, backward, and perhaps doomed to remain so. Erik Hersman paints a very different picture. His is a new Africa, an Africa of entrepreneurship- and technology-fuelled hope and optimism.

He talks about some of the innovative projects that he is involved in, including Ushahidi, an open-source web application created to map the reported incidents of violence happening during Kenya’s post-election crisis, and subsequently used for election monitoring and to support disaster relief efforts around the world.

Lisa Strausfeld

Pentagram’s Lisa Strausfeld works at the intersection of the physical and the virtual, where the navigation of information and the navigation of buildings come together in a unified experience. In this talk, she showcases many of the inspiring projects she has worked on.

Richard Buchanan

Richard Buchanan is a huge name in our field, arguably best known for inaugurating the postgraduate interaction design programs at Carnegie Mellon. His talk runs the gamut—from design’s subject matter (“Design has no subject matter … We MAKE our subject matter.”) through defining interaction design and through his four orders of design (which define the types of interaction that we design) to the importance of knowing the history of the field.

Brenda Laurel

Brenda Laurel has had a long and distinguished career in the design field. Through the lens of the innovations that she helped conceive, she illustrates a number of important “hinges”—turning points if you like—that were important enablers of subsequent innovations. This talk reminded me of what author Steven Johnson calls “the adjacent possible”, whereby all new ideas are new combinations of existing ideas.

Jason Bruges

Jason Bruges shows off some of the brilliant installations (pun intended) that his studio has created. I can’t help but think that this stuff is a bit frivolous. But on the other hand, if they make people think and help to make our cities nicer places, what’s wrong with that?

Bruce Sterling: Closing Keynote

This is the icing on the cake. Bruce Sterling delivers the smackdown. But he does it with such humor and empathy that we can’t help being taken in. And he really does give us some meaty stuff to chew on. Morality in design, user Stockholm Syndrome, and so much more that I can’t begin to go into here. Expect to see the themes he brought up being discussed a lot in the near future.

Via: JohnnyHolland