Off the Top: Programming Entries

November 1, 2014

Being Makers

Oh, there is so much great fodder in Dan Hon’s most recent Tiny Letter, but today’s dosage meted out Episode One Hundred and Eighty One: It’s Too Hot; Monitor This is a gem. The piece that really got me going is midway through section “2.0 Monitor This”, as follows:

I’ve been in meetings like this.

I don’t know what the brief would've been. But given that it went to Jam in the first place, I’m sure it was something to do with “let’s do something on social or mobile”. And it's exciting to think, as a creative team, that you've come up with an “app” that can “solve a problem”.

Well, part of the f*cking problem is this: those creative teams have most commonly *never shipped* an “app” or a “service” before. And the skills required in actually making a good application or service are vastly different from those involved in creating compelling creative communications. Because, you know, one of these things is used and the other one isn’t. That’s not to say that good apps and services *can’t* be informed by the kind of taste and direction that informs well-performing advertising creative communications work. But the two things are different!

This is why, for example, good producers try to find people who’ve actually done something in the relevant area before, so you’re not playing a f*cking crap shoot.

Pants on Fire

This scenario is not only creative agencies, but most any non-serious product organization. I see this a ton where people are just guessing the way forward. It doesn’t matter if they are in UX and don’t understand the medium they are working in with any depth (they don’t prototype and can’t build), they are analysts who have never built nor managed a scaled environment and been responsible for it, or are a consultant that never stuck around to be responsible for what they delivered so never learn how to do anything close to properly.

Largely it comes down to depth and experience dealing with things for a long haul. The best experience is not only doing, but being with it long term and responsible for things after they are delivered. The best experience in this set is being the person, or one of the people, whose pants catch on fire when things don’t go well.

These “pants catch on fire” folks are most often gems, particularly if they are keep building and working to innovate and iterate (with all the research and digging for more depth) so to understand it better and get it right. These people are also the ones who can break things down to the “it depends” elements and walk through the questions needed and know what to do with the answers. Far too many want the answers without knowing how to think it through or go through the questions but not understand what the answers mean.

SXSW Started with Makers

A lot of this reminds me of the progressions of South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive. I first went in 2001 to not only listen and learn, but to meet and thank some of the people who helped me deeply by the lessons they learned and shared themselves and by others on shared in the service they offered. I learned much of what I knew in the early web years (1994 to 2001) from people sharing what worked, but also what didnt work (and what they did that didn≱t work in a situation) [I also had relied heavily on my formal learning as a communication major undergrad and public policy (econ and social quant) from grad school]. I wanted to say hello to Jeffrey Zeldman for A List Apart, Jeffrey Veen for Webmonkey and HotWire, and Nathan Shedroff for sharing all they did at Vivid Studio (one of the first web design shops that predated UX, but took all the methods I learned in designing communications and applied it to the web and digital matter and connected the long used methods to new terms for the same things).

That 2001 SXSW was a lot of people who were building, making, and working deeply to understand what worked, what didn≱t work, to improve what they were making so it could be used by others who needed it to work. It was a sea of design and developer hybrid explorers.

By 2005 SXSW had shifted from purely makers to include those talking about things made and how to use what has been made, while not really understanding what goes into making it. These were the “Clickers”.

In 2006 and 2007, we had shifted from the Makers, to the Clickers, to many talking about the Clickers, but not really understanding the Clickers as they weren’t really using things, but talking at an abstraction layer about what the Clickers said. There was some nascent value in these “Talking about Clickers” folks, but a lot of it was off target as they didn’t understand the underlying elements that were being used, not the mindset and the needs of the Clickers all that deeply - the exceptions to these are deep researchers who actually could and did make and spent time in with the Makers and Clickers.

By 2008 the abstraction at SXSW got really crazy. It had a huge number of talks by people “Talking about those Talking about Clickers” otherwise known as social media gurus. It was an utter mess. There was a severe lack of depth and nobody had a clue about much of what they were talking about. Their understandings were based on mis-understandings. There was a small contingent of Makers still speaking and some Clickers who had good depth of understanding by this point, but most of what was on the program was horrid blather. Much of the draw that had makers drop into Austin to see friends and colleagues and share and work through understandings to hone the way forward stopped going. At 2008 I had enough of it and stopped going as the value derived is next to nothing.

SXSW in about eight years went from being Makers, to Clickers, to Talking about Clickers, and to Talking about those Talking about Clickers. It became a gathering of nothingness. It became a conference of what Dan is talking about, people trying to do something without having any interest in understanding what they are doing. They want answers without understanding the question.

For the Love of Makers

I love the Makers and making. The mindset and drive to understand how to build things better for the Clickers and to make things more usable and needed. Working with other Makers and people with Makers’ mindset in the development, design, and product side is fantastic. There is a whole lot of “we don’t understand this well enough” mindset. As nothing is perfect and everything has gaps (products and humans) we need Makers to understand and build a way forward.

June 27, 2009

Social Design for the Enterprise Workshop in Washington, DC Area

I am finally bringing workshop to my home base, the Washington, DC area. I am putting on a my “Social Design for the Enterprise” half-day workshop on the afternoon of July 17th at Viget Labs (register from this prior link).

Yes, it is a Friday in the Summer in Washington, DC area. This is the filter to sort out who really wants to improve what they offer and how successful they want their products and solutions to be.

Past Attendees have Said...

“A few hours and a few hundred dollar saved us tens of thousands, if not well into six figures dollars of value through improving our understanding” (Global insurance company intranet director)

From an in-house workshop…
“We are only an hour in, can we stop? We need to get many more people here to hear this as we have been on the wrong path as an organization” (National consumer service provider)

“Can you let us know when you give this again as we need our [big consulting firm] here, they need to hear that this is the path and focus we need” (Fortune 100 company senior manager for collaboration platforms)

“In the last 15 minutes what you walked us through helped us understand a problem we have had for 2 years and a provided manner to think about it in a way we can finally move forward and solve it” (CEO social tool product company)

Is the Workshop Only for Designers?

No, the workshop is aimed at a broad audience. The focus of the workshop gets beyond the tools’ features and functionality to provide understanding of the other elements that make a giant difference in adoption, use, and value derived by people using and the system owners.

The workshop is for user experience designers (information architects, interaction designers, social interaction designers, etc.), developers, product managers, buyers, implementers, and those with social tools running already running.

Not Only for Enterprise

This workshop with address problems for designing social tools for much better adoption in the enterprise (in-house use in business, government, & non-profit), but web facing social tools.

The Workshop will Address…

Designing for social comfort requires understanding how people interact in a non-mediated environment and what realities that we know from that understanding must we include in our design and development for use and adoption of our digital social tools if we want optimal adoption and use.

  • Tools do not need to be constrained by accepting the 1-9-90 myth.
  • Understanding the social build order and how to use that to identify gaps that need design solutions
  • Social comfort as a key component
  • Matrix of Perception to better understanding who the use types are and how deeply the use the tool so to build to their needs and delivering much greater value for them, which leads to improved use and adoption
  • Using the for elements for enterprise social tool success (as well as web facing) to better understand where and how to focus understanding gaps and needs for improvement.
  • Ways user experience design can be implemented to increase adoption, use, and value
  • How social design needs are different from Web 2.0 and what Web 2.0 could improve with this understanding

More info...

For more information and registration to to Viget Lab's Social Design for the Enterprise page.

I look forward to seeing you there.

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November 3, 2007

Can Facebook Change Its DNA

I wrote and posted Can Facebook Change Its DNA as a follow-up to for Business or LinkedIn Gets More Valuable regarding the changes needed in Facebook if it wants to be valuable (or have optimal value) for the business world.

March 20, 2006

Post SXSW Reality Change

Getting back from SXSW Interactive is normally a filled with feeling empowered and excited after hanging out with many like minds. This is normally followed by severe reality slap between my mind/soul and my pocketbook. I want to dive in and build and iterate projects, but where I was was not there in that same space I was there bringing them up to where things were in years past and older (sometimes expired) best practices.

I had thought this year I was going to have a similar experience to that of Ethan of feeling a let down not having people to talk to about the experience. Somehow I have kept the high from SXSW, in-fact I have been filling in the gaps on panels I did not make it to and deeply wished I had made it to by reading other's reviews and presenter's slides.

I think my changed experience is largely due to changing my surroundings this past year to focus on clients that really want to build services and a web that goes beyond the page and resonates in people's lives so that what they offer can be used and reused as people actually want and need to do in their life. As well I have been doing the same around tagging and folksonomy, which blends into social networking and refindability. Lastly I dove back into a project that I have been working on since November of last year, thanks to my trip to London, which is where the light went on and the project started getting framed and built in spare time (with the help of another with a tiny slice of time).

I have been increasingly putting my developer hat back on and scratching my own itch, while pulling in resources to make all of this come to life. SXSW helped put this into perspective. Now I just need to get my taxes and other corporate administrative stuff out of the way to build and finish preparing for the IA Summit in Vancouver, BC

September 16, 2004

43folders for Refining Your Personal InfoCloud

I have been completely enjoying Merlin Mann's 43folders the past couple weeks. It has been one of my guilty pleasures and great finds. Merlin provides insights to geeks (some bits are Mac oriented) on how to better organize the digital information around them (or you - if the shoe fits). This is a great tutorial on refining your Personal InfoCloud, if I ever saw one.

Everytime I read this I do keep thinking about how Ben Hammersley has hit it on the head with the Two Emerging Classes. The volume of information available, along with the junk, and the skills needed to best find and manage the information are not for the technically meek.

May 30, 2004

Make My Link the P-link

Simon hit on plinks as an echo to Tim Bray's comments and variation on Purple Numbers (Purple Numbers as a reference). As I have mentioned before, page numbers fail us and these steps are a good means to move forward.

Simom has also posted in more plinks and in there points to Chris Dent's Big Day for Purple Numbers.

I have been thinking for quite some time about using an id attribute in each paragraph tag that includes the site permalink as well as the paragraph with in that entry. This would look like: <p id="1224p7">. This signifies permanent entry 1224 and paragraph 7 with in that entry. What I had not sorted out was an unobtrusive means of displaying this. I am now thinking about Simon's javascript as a means of doing this. The identifier and plink would be generated by PHP for the paragraph tag, which would be scraped by the javascript to generate the plink.

The downside I see is only making edits at the end of the entry using the "Update" method of providing edits and editorial comments. The other downside is the JavaScript is not usable on all mobile devices, nor was the speed of scrolling down Simon's page that fluid in Safari on my TiBook with 16MB of video RAM.

March 19, 2004

SixApart's TypeKey Coming Soon

SixApart's TypeKey looks to be a good resource to help authenticate those making comments on Web sites. I have been very happy with SixApart's TypePad, not that I am ready to move off my own system. Actually it sounds like TypeKey will have an open API that will allow those who have built their own weblogging tools to take advantage of the authentication services. This is one feature that has been on my own drawing board, but now I will be waiting for SixApart.

February 14, 2004

Rael on Tech

Tech Review interviews Rael about rising tech trends and discusses alpha geeks. This interview touches on RSS, mobile devices, social networks, and much more.

January 8, 2004

Lake Effect Snow in Washington DC

Lake effect snow warning or not, for Washington, DC. Yesterday, I had a handful of severe weather warnings popping into my mobile devices and my desktop. I read the alerts, which were for "lake effect snow" and blizzards in the next four to 12 hours. The area impacted were the counties around Washington, DC, including Washington. From there I checked a couple weather forecasts and live weather stats, 39 percent humidity and no clouds on the eastern seaboard.

A couple hours later a retraction was made by NOAA and the National Weather Service. It seems they were testing software alert messages and the tests were dumped in the live system database. Oops. Somebody got the lesson of a lifetime and a lesson on how to verify what system is being tested.

November 9, 2003

Apple Mac OS X as a great application development platform

Steve Neiderhauser has written an overview of what makes Apple a great application development platform. I cringe each time I hear somebody that has never understood application development or design state that Apple is a only a designer's platform. I bought an Apple laptop because of OS X, so that I could have a mobile UNIX platform for developing Web Applications and continuing my UNIX and OpenSource application development skills. I quickly found that the OS X platform was great for anytime of development, but I have not had the time to stay on top of my own development projects, as much I would like. I also found out that much of the Palm OS was built and maintained on Macs and UUNet has been largely a Mac-based company for its business practices.

April 13, 2003

Mac OS X Hacks proves to be very good

This weekend I picked up Mac OS X Hacks by Rael Dornfest and Kevin Hemenway for O'Reilly Books. I have picked up a few new tricks and have some new shareware to look into. The price is very reasonable, which made it an easy decision to purchase. The book is well written and has been bed time reading and couch reading, which has not worked well for getting too many of the good ideas implemented, but that will come.

One interesting section (there are 100 sections) is a speach recognition section that incorporates Perl, AppleScripting, SOAP, speach recognition, and voice output. This contribution by John Udell was a very juicy tidbit that had me thinking of all the wonderful uses.

April 1, 2003

Programming for Information Architects

Andrew Otwell provides a fantastic article at Boxes and Arrows Programming for Information Architects. This is a great overview for those IAs that are not familiar with programming. Heck it is a good resource for anybody not familiar with programming.

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