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A break from user experience: Climate Change April 10, 2008

Posted by psychobserver in Global Warming, Green Culture, Hong Kong.
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Al Gore at TED - March 2008A new talk from Al Gore about Climate Change has been posted on TED.com. As usual Al Gore does a great job at moving the audience and communicating a sense of urgency on the issue. The point he makes in his talk is: “Individual action is good, but it is not enough. The real answer is global regulations that will force governments, companies and people to change. There is no time for another approach.”

So, what can we do about it?… Well, my first step has been to take part in a petition locally in Hong Kong to pressure the government to put caps on carbon emissions from the two power companies on the territory. If you want to give a hand, just access the pre-formatted letter online and send it.

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Few Links – 22 Dec. 2006 December 22, 2006

Posted by psychobserver in Green Culture, Innovation, Usability.
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The usual three links on three topics that have nothing to do with one another:

  1. From BusinessWeek is an article about “China’s Innovation Barriers“. My thought on this: Looking at China’s rapid evolution in the past decades, why would being innovative be much of a problem? China has overcome much larger problems already.
  2. From BusinessWeek again is an article about “Matsushita’s Green Strategy“. A lot of interesting figures about Japanese companies in this article. The biggest take-away is that being greener is really a huge commitment and investment that does not bring return right away, so companies had better start quick.
  3. Posted on Experientia Blog “Putting People First” is an article about Usability called “Introducing Usability 2.0“. I really hate that 2.0 craze, but having done Usability Testing and writing reports sometimes even after a Web site had been launched, I totally identify with the writer. Great read.

Few Links – 17 Dec. 2006 December 17, 2006

Posted by psychobserver in Cultural Differences, Customer Experience, Green Culture.
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Below are three links about very different topics…

  1. From All This ChittahChattah by Steve Portigal is a post called “Signal To Noise“. It deals with the appropriateness of online advertising by highlighting a funny example. Highly relevant to any companies investing in online advertising: Don’t forget Context!
  2. From Adverblog is a link to an edugame aimed at making people realize how important it is to save energy in the office. As mentioned in Adverblog, the game is far from perfect, but it still provides some information in an entertaining way. Worth checking…
  3. From EasthSouthWestNorth is a post about the Hong Kong Ferry Terminal Clock that is to be demolished. It raises the issue of conserving the Hong Kong cultural heritage and how it is best done. I find it very interesting as it deals with the very definition of cultural heritage and how it can be shared in a meaningful way with outside people. I recently brought visitors to the newly built Ngong Ping Village and to see the Symphony of Lights… Both disgraces to Hong Kong culture if you ask me. Especially the Ngong Ping village which is supposed to be dedicated to Buddhism and includes French food, Starbucks and dumb shows that are absolutely not educational.

The Compliance Assistance Centre in Hong Kong November 3, 2006

Posted by psychobserver in Green Culture.
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As one employee stated it when explaining what it was, if the Environment Protection Department is the stick (armed with laws and regulations), the Compliance Assistance Centre set up in September in Hong Kong is the carrot. The center main mission is to educate people in specific industries on how to comply better with environment standards and how it can benefit their image to do so (the carrot). The center focuses on four areas: the construction industry, vehicle repair shops, restaurants and property management.

The attitude of the center is quite passive, waiting for interested parties to contact them. From the material distributed at the booth, the focus is also on big companies. Indeed all documents are thick reports that only a company with a legion of administrative staff would read. Even if the initiative is good I am not sure the carrot (a better image) will be big enough to attract the bulk of companies in the targeted industries where image may not be a top priority.

The other limitations of the center is that it only provides information and will send companies to other third-parties for actual services to help them, significantly affecting convenience. My first feeling on the Compliance Assistance Centre is that it should focus on a bottom-up approach with targeted trial programs with few picked companies rather than a top-down one. The carrot would appear much bigger with successful case studies done with other small businesses.

Enthusiasm is not enough November 1, 2006

Posted by psychobserver in Green Culture.
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EcoAsia ExpoThe Hong Kong Government Environmental Protection Department had a large booth at the EcoAsia Expo dedicated to promoting its efforts. I spent extensive time there talking to the staff, exchanging ideas and learning about the latest initiatives implemented by the department. Among the initiatives are the Compliance Assistance Centre (CAC), EcoPark and the Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Charging Scheme to which I will dedicate separate posts.

The first thing that struck me at the booth is the people. When I think government staff, it usually does not trigger very positive emotions (It is true that I mostly interact with immigration staff which is not the most pleasant of all experiences). But at the booth every single person I talked to was knowledgeable (in their particular area) and presented well. The most important was that they believed in what they were doing. They were eager to explain the newest initiatives happening, their impacts and exchange ideas about how things are done in other countries. Having enthusiastic employees is a first step in making a change.

It was clear as well that the department was spending endless efforts and money on trying to make their message stick and change people’s habits. The booth was full of reports, booklets, leaflets, freebies and other posters aimed at explaining how to be a more environment-friendly citizen. As a researcher, I am not convinced at all though that all these documents are “sticky”, to use Malcolm Gladwell terms.

I don’t think any study has been performed to assess how efficient all these promotions are, but there should be some. Mostly after people pick up leaflets, if they don’t throw them away, they will store them in a drawer not to look at them again. To really achieve its goal of changing people’s behavior, the government should look at more innovative ways and channels to research people and communicate its message. Being enthusiastic is good; being an expert about the environment is even better, but in the end how the message is communicated is most crucial in changing people’s habits. And there, the expertise necessary is marketing and psychology, on which I doubt that the government focuses enough.

Hong Kong people and the environment October 29, 2006

Posted by psychobserver in Green Culture.
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Two weeks ago, I went to watch “The Inconvenient Truth”, the documentary on global warming based on the work of Al Gore. The figures in the movie were so striking that at that time I thought the movie should become a compulsory watch for everybody in Hong Kong. People had to realize what was happening to the Earth. But something struck me even more during that movie. A couple of local Hong Kong people stood up in the middle and left the theatre never to return. How was that possible? How could anybody be so indifferent about the future of the Earth?

I then started to tell my friends around that they had to watch the movie and that it was so important to realize that if habits are not changed there will be serious repercussions. But with movies like “The Devil Wears Prada” or “The Departed” the Hollywood remake of a Hong Kong blockbuster, there was little chance many people would go and watch this amazing documentary.

EcoAsia ExpoAs I was reading “The Tipping Point” from Malcom Gladwell at that time, it got me thinking about the “stickiness” of the green message in general and why it seemed it received so little attention in Hong Kong. I thus decided to look into this issue by going at the EcoAsia Expo in Hong Kong organized by the Trade Development Council. On October 27th I took my notebook, my pens and my camera and went there to try to better understand the phenomenon. Why were people little interested in the future of the Earth around here? How could we get them to do more? Especially with a section of the expo on green consumer products, I was looking forward to see what products would affect consumers’ daily life and how they could be marketed.

The expo, targeted purely at buyers, did not have the kind of innovation I was looking for, but I still met some very interesting people and learnt more about what the government in Hong Kong is doing for the environment. As this post is already pretty long, I will detail some of these points in later posts on the topic. The most important thing I retain from the expo and the seminars that were held is a number: 1% to 2%. This is the objective the Hong Kong government has in terms of renewable energy by 2012. This means that by 2012, 1% to 2% of the energy produced and used in Hong Kong will be from renewable sources, like wind and solar power. To put this in perspective other numbers were shown at the expo. Tokyo has an objective of 20% renewable energy by 2020 and even more strikingly India today has a 5% renewable energy ratio. Way to go Hong Kong

If you are interested in Green Technologies, please do look at the following links: