Sunday, September 25, 2011

Interfaces are songs: Mobile is a beat you can dance to

 An interface has a beat, just like a song. It can be slow, fast, syncopated or straight time.

And mobile is a beat you can dance to. The taps on iOS leave so much room for animation and delight: layers and levels become successive opportunities for folding enchantment into experiences.

I have been thinking about this for a while. It came into focus on seeing Elvis Costello tonight. (I saw him the first time in college, again with Bob Dylan, and now with The Imposters.)

The blazing talent was always there, but the whole package is so much more awesome this century than the previous one.

The parts were all there before, just not as tightly polished and integrated.

Interfaces, too. Mobile interfaces are for dancing.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

So Much Awesome ... But Space and Time Can Be Bent

Speakers, Sessions and Slots: It’s Not Over ‘Til It’s Over > You Can Still Have Your Say at BarCamp Nashville 

Here’s a math problem: If 84 outstanding speaker topics are submitted to BarCamp Nashville, and the random draw has only 35 slots, what percentage of speakers get a place on the schedule? 

It’s a total good news/bad news situation: Nashville has so much awesome, that only 42% of the people who pitched could be accommodated this year. 

But bending the laws of space and time is what the tech crowd does all day, so here are the three other paths for participating: 

1. Sign up, attend, hang out: Being there is being part of it. Seriously. The event is as good as the community; no more and no less. 

2. Grab an Impromptu Session: In the pure, original spirit of the one true BarCamp, these 10 prime slots (5 rooms, 10:30 am and 1:45pm) are first-come, first-served, Darwinian social engineering. 

During the 35-minute Impromptu blocks, the main stages will be dark. 

To get one, find the Impromptu Board (early!) and be one of the first 10 people to claim a session by writing your name, title, format,  (Case Study, Hands-On, In-Depth, Introductory, or Panel/Discussion) and session description.

3. Claim a Discussion Table, or set yourself up around the main bar.


Here’s the tally of awesome that went into the random drawing, held Sept. 20, 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm at ESpaces, streamed online, and Facebooked: 

BCN11 Session Count by Category and Format
as of 8:00p 2011-09-19

Code: 35 (42%)
Content: 31 (37%)
Design: 11 (13%)
Gear: 7 (8%)
Total: 84

Case Study: 13
Hands-On: 8
In-Depth: 26
Introductory: 25
Panel/Discussion: 12

Total: 84

Monday, September 19, 2011

Netflix: You Are Testing My Love for You

So, this happened:

"... streaming and DVD by mail are becoming two quite different businesses, with very different cost structures, different benefits that need to be marketed differently, and we need to let each grow and operate independently. It’s hard for me to write this after over 10 years of mailing DVDs with pride, but we think it is necessary and best: In a few weeks, we will rename our DVD by mail service to “Qwikster”. -- Reed Hastings, Co-Founder and CEO, Netflix

The reaction was instantaneous and huge: 21,234 comments at last count.

I didn't mind the recent price increase; Netflix is still a piece of the future.

But the streaming/DVD split breaks the UX for people who do both, by requiring separate sites and separate searches-- that's the opposite of an improvement.

Until as much content is available through streaming as the US Postal Service delivers to my door in the familiar red envelope, this change makes the UX worse, not better.

"Software is media," says Fred Wilson, and media that is smooth will beat media that is clumsy. Netflix just made itself more clumsy.

360° of Awesome: BarCamp Nashville, You, and Digital Nashville

BarCamp Nashville is a big and growing part of the 360° of digital awesome here. Every year's sessions bring people you can learn from, and people who can learn from you. This year's festivities: Oct. 15, Cadillac Ranch, dawn til late.
  • All of y'all, A-Z  -- angels, bizdev, coders, designers, marketers, mentors, sysadmins, PMs, QAs, UX, VCs -- who have signed up to speak: Thank you, and congratulations for stepping up, whether you won a slot in the random draw or not. (Want to shape next year's selection process? Join the crew.)
  • If you didn't pitch, think about it for next year? The community needs your talent, your skills, your passion and your vision. Sharing makes us all smarter.
    Another homegrown tech community, Digital Nashville, is also built by people who code, design, fund, manage, and sell things to be clicked or tapped.

    For those who want to attend/speak at knowledge sharing events throughout the year, the DN education committee hosts three kinds: evening sessions, half-day and multi-day events.
    • If you want to speak, let's talk about your topic/date (I'm the chair), and I'll put it in front of the team. Right now, we're looking out into 2012.

    • If you want to attend, here's Digital Nashville's calendar, which aggregates tech things around town, acting as a clearinghouse for one-stop updates.
    See you at BarCamp Nashville, and at Digital Nashville. Together, we know everything.

    BarCamp Nashville is set for Saturday, Oct. 15, at Cadillac Ranch. BarCamp is a free, new-media focused "unconference" that's equal parts networking, knowledge-building and fun.

    Digital Nashville is here to enable you. Stay informed with our newsletter and twitter feeds. Get advice through our mentorship program. Save money. Find a workerExplore, make yourself at home, and make it yours.

    Next up on the blog tour: John Ellis

    Storytelling, Narratives, Scenarios and Use Cases for Sites and Mobile

    What can a user do on your site? On your iPhone app?

    • When you say it in a paragraph, you have a use case.

    • When you say it with conditions (if/then), you have a scenario.

    • When you say it sequentially (this happens, then that happens), you have a narrative.

    • When you say it across repeat visits today, and next week, integrated with social, and across all your conditions, you are telling a story.
    Overly simplified? Not at all. Add wireframes and storyboards for key interactions and transitions, develop the personas: fast, lean; build; launch.

    Some of the oldest stories are the simplest.

    Friday, September 16, 2011

    Amazon: Can we talk about the price/cart message?

    Oh, Amazon.

    There's so much that you do so well. So much that you get right.

    But there's this one little thing, well, if we could just talk about it?

    The price change alerts on the top of the page: Please fix them.

    I know you're trying to do the right thing, but this is a silly interruption.

    Suggestion: Give users a preference filter for alerts. Let me set/change the parameters, with sliders, for price changes by X% or $Y.


    Monday, September 12, 2011

    The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

    "For me, the towers are still planted solidly in the landscape of New York City,
    in my heart." -- Philippe Petit

    "When did the idea for the walk between the Twin Towers come to you?"

    "In 1968 I was 18 years old and I saw an article about those towers. There was a photo of a model, and the article said that they would be built one day, and they would be the finest in the world. And here I was, a completely new self-taught wire walker, and I thought, "What a fabulous thing to transform the top of those towers to a theater for one morning." And that's how the idea came." -- Gothamist.

    "Now, the towers are gone... But in memory, as if imprinted on the sky, the towers are still there " -- The Man Who Walked Between the Towers 

    Saturday, September 10, 2011

    BarCamp Nashville 2011: Mountain Climbing and Porch Sitting

    So, this is your first BarCamp? Excellent. Let me show you around.

    BarCamp Nashville's version of the franchise is way bigger and more organized than the just-show-up-and-talk BarCamps of the pure original vision, but not yet a trade show with shiny booths and shinier suits. It's something inbetween.

    And that seems to be the right thing, right place, right time.

    The scheduled sessions go all day, and there are several scheduled in each time slot. If you want to speak, post a pitch by Sept. 18. (Do it! Do it!)

    Please note: There's always drama around getting a speaking slot. The organizers are loath to simply choose (that's not how BarCamp works, say the purists), so there is annual tinkering with the process. This year, a lottery system is in place, emphasizing randomness. My .02 is that the process should combine crowdsourced voting for pitches (60 percent) and committee selection (40 percent). /soapbox.

    There's also space for side discussions in the Impromptu Rooms that are there for the taking. If you don't get a slot, you can hold a session of your own on a topic of your choice; just show up. (That's the true spirit of BarCamp, say the purists).

    How do you choose how to spend your time when you're there? Here's my advice:

    • Spend one-third of your time at sessions on topics you are familiar with. 
      You will experience both:
      (a) reassurance that you know more than the speaker, and
      (b) awe at the speaker's deeper knowledge

    • Spend one-third of your time at sessions completely over your head and out of your lane. You will have the stretching sensation of being a traveler unschooled in the local language. This will be good for you.

    • Split the remaining time between sessions put on by your friends, and shameless networking. Bring cards, chocolates, and mints.

    • Buy the meal plan, eat a nice lunch; maybe take a nap during the first afternoon session.

    • Also, the bar opens early (11ish?), and the lines get longer as it gets later.

    By the time the afterparty starts, you will have climbed mountains, done some porch sitting, and be ready for the night out.

    Follow: @Barcampnash
    Fan: Facebook

    Next stop on the BarCamp Nashville blog tour: Cal Evans.

    P.S. The crew is still accepting volunteers, especially for day-of-event help. Sign up, and you will get a t-shirt and street cred. The event also accepts sponsors.

    Do you want to go to there?

    Friday, September 9, 2011

    Identity and the Social Platforms that Will Own the Future

    The conversations around required unity of identity online keep continuing; but to me it's this clear and simple: You can have as many email addresses as you want, and you use them as you want them; why should social network personas/identities be any different?

    When you send a message from your work email, you speak in one voice; when you text from your phone, you speak in another.

    Online communities should be no different in terms of audience and participation and voice.

    Fred Wilson put up a particularly smart post on the topic, with a fiery discussion: Following Facebook Down the Wrong Path. The sharp, funny commenters who post pseudonomysly on his blog prove the value of identities that are contextual to their online communities.

    Yes, forums that breed trolls are bad, but that's a separate issue, and not one that insisting on real names on Facebook or Google+ will cure. Moderators, active commenters who vote people up or down, the banhammer: there are many ways to deal with trolls beyond forcing users to wear one identity across all of time and space.

    My prediction: the future of social media will be won by platforms that allow people to establish many identities, to wear as they please.

    The social platforms that will own the future will:

    (1) Create better  communities: more people will speak more freely in more voices in more places.

    (2) Make the market for monetizing social speech bigger, because the speech and the communities will be better.

    Cory Doctorow lays out the single identity issue as just an us vs. them thing:

    "The first duty of social software is to improve its users' social experience. Facebook's longstanding demand that its users should only have one identity is either a toweringly arrogant willingness to harm people's social experience in service to doctrine; or it is a miniature figleaf covering a huge, throbbing passion for making it easier to sell our identities to advertisers.

    Google has adopted the Facebook doctrine at the very moment in which the figleaf slipped, when people all over the world are noticing that remaking ancient patterns of social interaction to conform to advertising-driven dogma exposes you to everything from humiliation at school to torture in the cells of a Middle Eastern despot. There could be no stupider moment for Google to subscribe to the gospel of Zuckerberg, and there is no better time for Google to show us an alternative."

    I think this is exactly correct: On the internet, when you create an identity in a community, nobody knows you're a dog, or a mermaid, or a robot dinosaur, or a mom, or ... anything beyond the knowledge you drop and the interactions you share.

    People/identities who add value will be leaders/contributors in a community; people who don't will not be.

    It matters little to a community if a contributor's name is Lady Gaga, Madonna, Grimlock, or Marie, Queen of Romania; what matters is the contributions.

    O, Tumblr, Orly?

    This is such a rude and inconsiderate message in what is an otherwise smooth signup process for Tumblr:

    My URL is too long for you?

    You can't handle more than 32 characters?

    O, Tumblr.

    Thursday, September 8, 2011

    remembering 911

    a photo from the union square park memorials that appeared in the days after 911: flowers everywhere, and signs calling for peace

    Thursday, September 1, 2011

    From Wireframes to Beta: Failing, Winning and Launching, Often

    Wireframes. Prototypes. Mockups: Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they fail.

    The more quickly you get through the fails, learn, and fix them, the more quickly you can succeed.

    Here's how.

    Today, right now, do a sketch: in Omnigraffle, on a whiteboard, with a pencil, with Balsamiq, Mockingbird ... it doesn't matter.

    It doesn't have to be the whole site, app, or tool -- start with just a piece of it.
    Dive into the middle and swim back to the surface. You are expected to argue with yourself while you are doing this.

    Show this low fidelity wireframe to people; get comments and feedback. See where it succeeds, see where it fails.

    Refine it. Or go back to the beginning, and start over.


    Now you have a higher fidelity wireframe.

    Show this to more people: get comments, refine, repeat.

    You're moving toward a prototype.

    Now, start adding actual content to sub for lorem ipsum, or bring in a content writer (I do content strategy and writing, so I do this part myself); start doing visual design, or bring in a colleague (I reach out for help here).

    You're moving from prototype to mockup.

    Show people, refine, repeat a few times with this approach.

    Whoa, you're ready for beta.

    Now, do another.