Getting it right: annals of design

This is my favorite tech gadget in at least a year.  Just buy one, whether you’re taking notes in class or doing interview research.  The basic idea is that the pen contains audio recording hardware and software, and a camera that looks where it is writing.  The paper is covered with an almost invisible light-blue dot pattern, distinctive over every page of four different notebooks in each of three different sizes, and it has controls (record, stop, etc.) printed at the bottom that the pen responds to when you touch them.

The pen accumulates page images while you’re writing notes, and a very serviceable audio recording of what it heard while you were writing each word or diagram.  You can dump the images and sound into your computer and point at different places on the pages with your mouse, or you can just touch the pen to notes on the paper page, and hear the audio from that point.  What this means is that you can record an interview or lecture taking intermittent brief notes, and not have to listen through the whole thing later, or scrub lamely back and forth, to hear a part of interest (faster or slower, of course).  For example, I was in meetings in Brazil this summer in Portuguese, and my Portuguese is still sketchy, especially for technical stuff.  But I can play back any part instantly, as slowly as I want, keyed by my paper notes.

Obviously, this is an inkjet printer or safety razor, right; you buy the pen and a couple of notebooks cheap, and then you pay through the nose for paper for life.  Nope; Livescribe will give you software to print your own paper, and their notebooks are reasonably priced so you don’t want to.

All in all, one of the most completely developed and integrated devices of my experience. Oh yeah, it doesn’t have a pocket clip or a practical cap.  Otherwise, nice job.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.