Friday, November 19, 2010
While the use of this medium was inevitable, it changed the way we look at our political candidates and ultimately, the way we vote and choose our leaders.
As a college student, I took a political science class just because I needed to offset my less than stellar performance in algebra. GPA matters. Of course in that era, there was no Youtube...the internet did not exist, so we had to use printed transcripts of the debate to study the event itself.
You can see for yourself here. While Nixon seemingly had a better grasp and overall understanding of the issues, he bounced between obvious discomfort and outright aggression or defensive posture during the debate. Kennedy on the other hand looked composed, comfortable and was the obvious more attractive candidate on stage.
Did that matter? The attractive part?
A poll after the debate was taken between Television viewers and radio listeners. As the link above will state, those who listened to the debate on radio thought Nixon to be the obvious winner. Those who viewed the debate on television chose Kennedy.
Let's look at part of a recap from that debate:
"Perhaps the most crucial aspect of Kennedy’s victory, however, was his superior handling of the new medium of television. Having spent the first part of September campaigning in sunny California, the already handsome, athletic Kennedy entered the debate looking especially vivacious and fit. Nixon, by contrast, had lost weight during an extended hospital stay, refused studio makeup, sweated visibly, and appeared altogether less healthy and appealing. As historians and commentators have pointed out, many of those who listened to the debate on the radio, only hearing the voices of the candidates, thought Nixon was the victor, with his authoritative speech and mature voice. But unfortunately for Nixon, the debate was televised, and Kennedy’s calm, attractive demeanor and expectation-defying performance won the day. "
So, do we choose our leaders based simply on how they look?
It's looking that way
In the past 5 months, I've been doing some polling of my own. Of course it's not on a national or global level. In fact, it's been an extremely small sampling, but the outcome of this experiment have led me to some conclusions that I think are important enough to share.
We do between 300 and 400 computer installs for disadvantaged kids in the Austin Texas area a year. During that time, I have the undivided attention of both the parents and the kids. When I see that I have a friendly and open audience, I ask those over 17 to take a 10 minute poll of sorts.
I have to date a sampling of 78 people.
Hardly a large number, but it's what I have.
I ask them what software they are used to using, how often they use a computer and in what environment they use it.
I then explain to them that I am going to show them picture-sets of 3 different applications. We've found that the most-used apps are the browser, the word processor and the music/MP3 programs.
Let me state that this is no where near a controlled or scientific endeavor...I simply choose participants on their willingness to do this.
The Browser...A virtual Wash.
The results here were pretty much split down the middle. Both of the shown screenshots were taken in VirtualBox in order to maintain font and consistency.
37 people chose Internet Explorer 8 while the remainder of the people chose Firefox. Please note, my observations show that besides some icon theming, the two browsers render themselves almost identical in these screenshots.
Theming seems to be the key here in many of the things we discovered. We did not discuss much about the different browsers except that Microsoft Explorer comes "bundled" with Windows and Firefox is a stand-alone browser that can be installed in most any recognized Operating System.
In A Word...
The Microsoft Office component, Word got the nod from 53 people in contrast to the 25 who chose the OpenOffice offering of Writer. Very little was explained to the viewers except that Word, bundled in the latest Microsoft Office offering could cost them in excess of $200.00 US while OpenOffice was free to use and modify.
It didn't seem to make much difference.
Cosmetically, one could see why people chose Word over Writer at 2-1. It has a pretty blue theme contrasted by the rather stark and blocky presentation of Writer. But again, to a point this is more of a theming issue I believe. Some interesting things happened when we moved on to the music apps.
Music makes the world go around...
Consistently, whether it's a teenager or an adult, our experience shows few applications on a computer share use as much as music programs. Of course, Windows dominance prevails in this area as well. Most people we talk to define their computer music experience as being dominated by Windows Media Player.
But we cannot definitively say that it's because it is a superior application.
It seems that looks matter here as well.
We played with this a bit, simply because a direct comparison between one open source application against WMP didn't tell the whole story.
They were of course talking about the album art that showed up in WMP. That app automatically queries the net for the appropriate album cover while Ryhthmbox needs configuration in order to do so.
71 percent based their choice on how the application looked.
When we went further to explain the the open source offering did not encumber their experience with (explained) DRM, that number improved by another 9 percent. We then showed these folks the default picture of Ryhthmbox along side of the differently themed version with album art enabled and told them it was the exact same application. We explained to them that Linux allowed them to change themes with a couple of clicks.
The majority of them showed various degrees of surprise or disbelief until I actually re-themed their Linux boxes on the fly.
Then they understood.
Amorok won that contest 56 to 22.
When we asked why they thought that Amorok was a better application, the majority of people said that it offered some cool features and that it looked good.
All of this was done of course in a Gnome environment, on our customized version of Ubuntu 10.4.
I'm not sure any of this bears significance except to note that some computer users are first drawn to an application from physical appearance.
But then again, apparently this is how many of us choose our political leaders and most likely our spouses.
No real surprises here.
Maybe some of the battles can be won with a simple default makeover.
blather and mumbling provided by Ken Starks at 11:13 AM