Sunday, November 25, 2012

Homes for Shelter Dogs Across Platforms and Users

The "Woofer" project, for Pedigree -- executed awesomely by Click3x, with an assist from me -- very smartly finds homes for shelter dogs across the browser, Facebook,  Instagram, and Twitter.

The idea behind "Woofer" -- build a database of adoptable dogs by having shelter workers upload Instagram photos that are tagged to specific categories -- reinvents the shelter backbone by using existing social tools.

The integrated execution of "Woofer" is so smart in so many ways -- let us count them:

1. "Woofer" is natively social, from the data input to the sharing.

2. The marketing of "Woofer" -- frequently updated across the social channels with appealing promotions -- is thoughtful and compelling, and extends from online to TV.

3. The brand is also providing education about responsibly caring for pets to prospective adopters: a tactic shelters regard as the highest determinant of how successful the new friendship will be.

Related: Doing good and doing well.

What can your brand do that is as close to perfect for your audience as being a dog-food maker that sponsors shelters and has a marketing tie-in to a play about an orphaned girl and her stray dog, featuring a real-life shelter pet?

"Woofer" promo on Facebook for discounted tickets to "Annie." 

Sunny's story: the real-life shelter pet co-starring in "Annie."

How can we help more brands be this smart about doing good? #becauseawesome

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Chart junk, PowerPoint, and Rocketships

It is not impossible to make something good with PowerPointYou just have to do the opposite of what every standard PowerPoint template ever made would have you do.

Seth is right on all points here:
No more than six words on a slide. EVER. There is no presentation so complex that this rule needs to be broken. 
No cheesy images. Use professional stock photo images. 
No dissolves, spins or other transitions.

The legendary PowerPoint of the Gettysburg Address critiques the medium by example:

  • Good, clear charts and infographics are awesome.  
  • Chart junk is bad. 
  • PowerPoint chart junk is particularly bad.
  • Really bad PowerPoint can kill astronauts and blow up rocketships.

Monday, November 19, 2012

I have a theory

There have been recent outbreaks of the #DTDT controversy: you know, the one that's been going on forever, with some good points but a lot of Big End Little End absurdity.

Shorter: Growth in #ux, #ixd, #ia, #contentstrategy and all that we hold dear is good, but while theory and practice are the same in theory, they're different in practice.

Related:  My theory, by Anne Elk:
All brontosauruses are thin at one end, much much much thicker in the middle, and thin again at the far end.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The UX of Everyday Things

All your everyday things have a user experience and some are better than others.

Of the dozens -- sometimes hundreds -- of interactions with things that you have in a day, how many are:

o  Invisible to you: they are things you just do, like opening your front door with a key or washing dishes in the sink.

o  Annoying to you: the door on the washing machine still squeaks every time you open it, and there's no clearly simple way to fix it.

o  Delightful to you: Purely joyful and magical; as much a source of delight now as the first time you did it.

Here are some clearly improvable UX experiences from everyday life:

o  When you get out of your car and ding your door on the barrier next to the pump.

o  When you have to look at three different screens at the supermarket self checkout to scan, swipe, and sign.

o  When you are listening to music on your phone and a notification cuts into it.

Here are some lovely UX experiences that are engaging, delightful, and easily reproducible:

o DMs on Twitter: one of the least spammy channels left

o  Making coffee by hand with all the properly configured paraphernalia.

o  Baking with cinnamon.

o Reading a book.

The constant challenge for #UX is to make more experiences better. How?

o  Talk to people.

o  Listen.

o  Design with empathy for the people who will be using the things that you make.

Friday, November 9, 2012

World IA Day :: Nashville :: Feb 9, 2013

Do you puzzle over classifying a black cashmere turtleneck, size Medium, for women, as a "sweater" or a "top," while being quite certain that "apparel" is a term of value only to those in the rag trade?
Is the challenge of organizing 60,000 pieces of content -- indexed and tagged -- one that you welcome?
Well, all right then: On Feb. 9, 2013, Nashville joins 14 other cities worldwide in celebrating World Information Architecture Day.
Update: Nashville's event: free seats are going fast; get yours now.

Speaker slots are full; will announce shortly.
Sponsor slots still available: lauriekalmanson at gmail dot com.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Serialized fiction: Everything old is new again

Waiting for the chime of the notification saying "A new chapter is available to download" is completely different from yet very much the same as crowds gathering at the dock to get the latest installment of a Dickens novel unloaded with the london paper.

The updated version:
"Serialized fiction, where episodes are delivered to readers in scheduled installments much like episodes in a television series, has been the subject of an unusual amount of experimentation in publishing in recent months. In September, Amazon announced Kindle Serials, stories sold for $1.99 and published in short episodes that download onto the Kindle as the episodes are released. Three of the first eight serials were produced by Plympton, a new literary studio. "
"In August, Byliner, a digital publisher, announced that it would begin a new digital imprint devoted to serialized fiction, with work by Margaret Atwoodand Joe McGinniss at its start." 
"One of the most talked-about new experiments is taking serialized fiction a step further. Set to make its debut on Monday, it is a novel called “The Silent History” that is available on the Apple iPhone and its iPad. It includes interactive, user-generated elements."
The Victorian version reached its peak with The Old Curiosity Shop, by Charles Dickens.
"The hype surrounding the conclusion of the series was unprecedented; Dickens fans were reported to storm the piers of New York City, shouting to arriving sailors (who might have already read the last instalment in the United Kingdom), "Is Little Nell alive?"
"In 2007, many newspapers claimed the excitement at the release of the last volume The Old Curiosity Shop was the only historical comparison that could be made to the excitement at the release of the last Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.[5]"

Monday, September 24, 2012

BarCamp Nashville 2012 #becauseawesome

BarCamp Nashville is awesome for so many reasons. Come to this year's, and:

-- See old friends.
-- Meet new ones.

Our homegrown, free, tech, social media and marketing “unconference” lets anyone sign up to speak (hurry!) and invites everyone who is interested to show up for listening, drinking,  eating, talking,  drinking, networking, drinking, and going to the after-party.

You can choose across simultaneous sessions on the hour, and if you taste it and don't find it delicious, you can visit another one.

If you meet and greet and want to follow up, take it to the bar and make something happen.

There are also "impromptu" rooms for sessions that happen on a whim; those can be extra awesome.

Here's the info you need to make it happen:

When: Oct. 20, 2012
Where: Tequila Cowboy (formerly Cadillac Ranch), 305 Broadway, in downtown Nashville, at 3rd Avenue South.
When: All day and all of the night.

Here's a little history:

The official "BarCamp" brand is both tighter and looser than what Nashville does, and that's okay. The conference here started in 2007, with Marcus Whitney and Dave Delaney recruiting Kelly Stewart and Dean Shortland, who wrangled enough people to speak  from noon to midnight.

The conference has evolved since then, to be bigger and both more broadly and more widely focused on technology, marketing and social media. People come from all angles of those businesses. Add cocktails and stir.

See you there.

UPDATE: Thanks for visiting, all you all. These are the browsers you smart people are using:

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Neil Alden Armstrong (August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012)

 New York Times obituary today for the first astronaut to walk on the moon:
Neil Armstrong, inside the lander after the moonwalk on July 20, 1969.
"Mr. Armstrong commanded the Apollo 11 spacecraft that landed on the moon on July 20, 1969, capping the most daring of the 20th century’s scientific expeditions. His first words after setting foot on the surface are etched in history books and the memories of those who heard them in a live broadcast. 

“That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind,” Mr. Armstrong said."

I was a child then, watching in the living room, in black-and-white, way past bedtime.

This month, when #Curiosity landed on Mars, I was an adult, watching livestreaming on my laptop, way past bedtime.

Here are images and text, from the NASA archives.

The crew of Apollo 11:

Commander Neil A. Armstrong
Command Module pilot Michael Collins
Lunar Module pilot Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr. 
May 1, 1969. (NASA photo ID S69-31739)

On July 20, 1969, after a four day trip, the Apollo astronauts arrived at the Moon. 

This photo of Earthrise over the lunar horizon taken from the orbiting Command Module is one of the most famous images returned from the space program, although even the astronauts themselves cannot remember who actually took the picture. 

The lunar terrain shown, centered at 85 degrees east longitude and 3 degrees north latitude on the nearside of the Moon is in the area of Smyth's Sea.

(NASA photo ID AS11-44-6552)

Neil Armstrong took this picture of Edwin Aldrin, showing a reflection in Aldrin's visor of Armstrong and the Lunar Module.  This is one of the few photographs showing Armstrong (who carried the camera most of the time) on the Moon.

 The tasks assigned to both astronauts were carefully choreographed and practiced back on Earth, and Aldrin was busy setting up scientific experiments among other responsibilities. 

Apparently taking pictures was not as carefully planned. Aldrin later said, "My fault, perhaps, but we had never simulated this in training."
(NASA photo ID AS11-40-5903)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Oh, The Places You'll Go :: Travel #ux

Travel is wonderful for seeing #ux things. Here is an annotated gallery, with  thought experiments:

1.  How many ways are there to design a shower/tub faucet?
a.  There are an infinite number of ways, as is evidenced by looking at online hardware offerings or visiting your local boutique, mall or big-box home decor store.

b. There are two ways: the right way and the wrong way.
Hint: If you need to put a sign on it to tell people how it works, it's the wrong way.

2. How do you eat bread?
a.  By following the "Bread Instructions"

b. Slice, serve, store. Repeat.
Hint: Instructions that say they are "easy to follow" often aren't.

3. What should you do if the elevator gets stuck?

a. Do not become alarmed, but do press the button marked "alarm."

b. Distinguish the red button marked "alarm" from any other possible buttons marked "alarm."

c. Use telephone: Mine? Yours? Theirs?

Hint: Italics are not the right face for urgent information. Also, omit needless words.

Friday, August 10, 2012

"Hope" is the thing with feathers¹ :: Also, plutonium

The project that landed #Curiosity on Mars started a decade ago. A new scientist working on the team set her course for this future years earlier; an experienced scientist working on it steered by that star even longer.

That's a lot of hope.²

Also, plutonium: The rover is powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator, whose heat produces electricity and keeps #Curiosity warm in the -150°F Martian night.³

Getting ready
Climbing hills

  1. “Hope” is the thing with feathers
    By Emily Dickinson
    “Hope” is the thing with feathers 
    That perches in the soul 
    And sings the tune without the words 
    And never stops - at all 
    And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard 
    And sore must be the storm 
    That could abash the little Bird
    That kept so many warm 

    I’ve heard it in the chillest land 
    And on the strangest Sea 
    Yet - never - in Extremity,
    It asked a crumb - of me.
  2. More than three million people watched the #Curiosity landing live on Ustream, according to the web platform, with feeds from NASA HDTV, NASA JPL and NASA JPL 2.

  3. Plutonium decay heats #Curiosity and other robotic space machines. Plutonium was also used in "Fat Man," the nuclear bomb detonated over Nagasaki, on August 9, 1945, three days after Hiroshima was destroyed by the uranium-based "Little Boy."

Monday, August 6, 2012

Morse code :: Visual odometer

The awesome from Curiosity is so deep and so wide.

Today's piece of space trivia: the treads cut into the wheels to mark its trail with a "visual odometer" spell out JPL in Morse Code.

"J P L," in Morse Code = visual odometer

Mars :: Again, and Better

So much awesome when our powers are used for good. 

1969: Apollo 11 lands on the moon. The technology is a fraction of what an iPhone has, but it works. I was a child, watching on television in the living room; the signal came from the antenna on the roof of the house.

2012: Curiosity lands on Mars. The technology is "the most challenging mission ever attempted in the history of robotic planetary exploration."  I watch on a glass and metal machine from the future, in my lap, my child asleep beside me, as a  jet-fired hover crane lowers a robot the size of a Mini Cooper, onto Mars -- who emails us photos, from the other side of the sun.

The Gemini and Apollo programs made me love space, science, and tech; I hope does this for kids everywhere, today and tomorrow.

@MarsCuriosity is hilarious, smart and funny: perfect social media voice for the journey.

"is the central defining human attribute"
Lots of amazing photos:

As seen on live streaming, the visualized animation:

Mission Control
Landing a robot on Mars :: Instant meme


 The dots and dashes cut into the wheels spell JPL in Morse code.

The internet started as a government program; NASA and science are government programs for the future.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Solve for Awesome*

Nice piece from Smashing Magazine: "The Personality Layer," updates the human hierarchy of needs for interactive experiences.

Shorter: Awesome = ("the personality layer") + (functional + reliable + usable).

* See also, @fakegrimlock on "MVP: Minimum Viable Personality," the #becauseawesome guest post @fredwilson published.

@fakegrimlock original art for the "Minimum Viable Personality" post on

The High Line and the Empire State Building

What I love about this Google street view photo is what I love about New York City: So much texture, so much to see, so much history, so much everything, everywhere, with the Empire State Building just barely there, in the corner of your eye.

Google Maps: High Line Park
Built as a better solution to the 19th-century menace of railroad traffic on city streets than urban cowboys leading locomotives, the High Line opened to trains in 1934 -- four years after the groundbreaking for the Empire State Building.

Death defying "West Side Cowboy" leads a train through city streets.
The High Line handled freight trains until 1980, the year that its old friend, the Empire State Building, received its own zip code.

After years of arguments for preservation vs. demolition, hard work by community advocates, the eventual support of the city, and a design competition, the High Line park opened in 2009.

A gorgeous and amazing photo gallery on the High Line site charts its history, from construction, through dereliction and abandonment, to its glorious present rebirth.

And always, in the corner of your eye, the High Line's old friend, the Empire State Building is there.

From the High Line's photo gallery: A locomotive, and the ESB.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

100 years of air conditioning

Media gave a lot of play this week to a smart PR piece: the centennial, give or take a decade, of air conditioning. Hot, hot, hot!

100 years ago, electricity was still a new thing, whose uses were barely established:

-- Make things light
-- Make things move

Uses soon added:

-- Make things hot
-- Make things cold
-- Make sounds
-- Send messages 
-- Make moving images

And then came now, when you can hold all the media ever made in a sandwich of metal and glass.

Wikipedia has the air-conditioning facts:

In Buffalo, New York, on July 17, 1902, in response to a quality problem experienced at the Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing & Publishing Company of Brooklyn, Willis Carrier submitted drawings for what became recognized as the world's first modern air conditioning system. The 1902 installation marked the birth of air conditioning because of the addition of humidity control, which led to the recognition by authorities in the field that air conditioning must perform four basic functions:

1.) control temperature;
2.) control humidity;
3.) control air circulation and ventilation;
4.) cleanse the air.

On December 3, 1911, Carrier presented the most significant and epochal document ever prepared on air conditioning – his "Rational Psychrometric Formulae" – at the annual meeting of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. It became known as the "Magna Carta of Psychrometrics." This document tied together the concepts of relative humidity, absolute humidity, and dew-point temperature, thus making it possible to design air-conditioning systems to precisely fit the requirements at hand.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Back where I come from

Counting down to showing my critter more slices of NYC so it is in her bones like it is in mine :: what everything else measures against.

#Dead x #Slain :: Cary Grant in an Insetta

#fainting_of_awesome #dead_of_awesome #slain #hurr_hurr

"While women are most often used to sell cars, men have also played the role of human hood ornament. Here, screen legend Cary Grant poses in a 1955 BMW Isetta in Munich, West Germany. The tiny car had one door -- in the front -- and three wheels."

Monday, July 16, 2012

"Cell Phone Tower Hill"

Back when electricity, steel and steam first made it possible to send messages faster than a person could walk or a horse could run, naming a place "Telegraph Hill" was a way to embrace the future.

Telegraphy's dots and dashes created the means of production for mass media, and advertising was the revenue model. Wire stories and their accompanying photos went from anywhere to everyhwere, blurring content strategies from local to national. Press barons built empires on top of monopoly rents, and high barriers to entry ensured that freedom of the press belonged to those who owned one.

That model lasted about a century.

Today, the internet, mobile, and streaming are disintermediating everything -- and anyone can be a channel. The technology is as unremarked upon as air, as ordinary as breathing; nobody's city councils are passing resolutions in honor of  "Cell Phone Tower Hill."

And while the future beeps and buzzes along, and print reverts to its pre-Gutenberg specialized luxury status, the antique brass, wood, and Bakelite artifacts of telegraphy and steam trade in online marketplaces at a premium.

Collectible telegraphy

Child's play: circa 1950s

#Wireframes :: How do I work this?

A wireframe is an invitation to a conversation:
  • What do you think about this, here?
  • That, there?
  • What if it shimmied?
  • What if it shook?
  • What if it wiggled? 
  • What if it waggled?
Wireframes can be created in a vacuum and delivered over the transom to a creative team down the hall, a dev team overseas, or a client who has been excluded from the thinking that went into making them: when that happens, the project and all the people involved, from the sales team to the end user, are doomed to a bad experience.

But when wireframes are used as  a conversation starter -- to push and pull and iterate with project partners -- for working through how a mobile app or a web thing can work, that's doing it right.

One of my favorite presentation devices when I work with a new team is to wave a deck of wireframes, stop, hold it up, and tear it in half.

Wireframes are iterative.

Let's go.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer knowledge :: Throwing chum, grilling onions

Working as a galley mate during college summers on a party boat in the small, quiet fishing village back where I came from, I learned these things:

1. If you grill onions at 10:00 AM, people will want lunch by 10:15 AM.

2. The more vociferously a drunk man protests the presence of a girl on a boat, the more likely he is to soon be paging Ralph.

3. Seagulls don't only eat bread from the dumpster behind the bakery; they also catch in mid-air the fish guts and skeletons that deckhands toss over the rails.

4. "First boat to grounds daily," and "heated rails" are both important promises.

5. Bluefish are delicious: brush with olive oil, broil with garlic and onions.

6. There is no number six.

7. If the head cook starts sharpening knives when the ocean gets rough, dance.

8. The more chum you throw, the more fish you catch.

Captain Charlie Becker's "TAMPA VI" from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, NY.  Gulf Craft built this 120-foot party boat in 1977: at the time, it was the largest party fishing boat they had built.  In 1986, she was converted into a dinner cruise boat.  She was later sold, and operated as a Galapagos Islands dive boat.  Photo courtesy of Scotty Tibbs II and Gulf Craft Inc.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Textures and Sounds :: Metal, Marble and Glass

The clinking of the nickels.

The coolness of the metal, marble and glass.

The Automat :: now memorialized at the New York Public Library, through February, 2013.

The New York Times story.

The library's announcement.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

You can find any image; you can buy any souvenir

I loved the Kodak Instamatic camera* I had in grade school, and I was sad when I accidentally didn't pack it for a family trip on the S.S. France.

Fast forward to now, when the internet is filled with images of everything: cameras, ocean liners, ads, menus.

And you can buy any souvenir that you missed out on or lost.


* I showed my digital native sprout the Kodak Instamatic photo, and it was an interesting although inadvertent usability experiment:

-- Born in a world of apps, she perceived the image as screenshot of an app, not of a camera.

-- Her instant review of the app: "Too many buttons."

-- She had a description / mental model for each of the  things -- logo, model name and number nameplate, and she told me the functionality she imagined each one: take a picture, save, close.

 -- She had no mental model for a device with a tiny shutter button on the front, an eject button for a flashbulb and a crank/film winder on the back, and dismissed those functional descriptions as "something from when you were a child."

More Obsolete Technology

When I unloaded my old mountain bike in the cycling store's parking lot, looking for an air pump -- as you can see from the cobwebs on the tires, which are flat, I haven't ridden for a while -- the elite crowd gathering for an all-day outing was kind and helpful.

"Sorry, yes, the store is gone." *

"No, it's okay, they've moved to a bigger store."

"I have a frame pump, I can help with the tires."


Thank you.

Related:  "Record my ride" is not a good place for the "Pause" button on the cycling app.

* But the riders still gather there.

Birds: They Live Among Us

The barn swallows, tiny and demanding in their dried mud nest above the pool's gate during the Memorial Day weekend's opening ceremonies, have fledged.

It is thrilling that the parents came back and raised another family of six in the nest they built last year.

Hoping for a second family this season:

"There are normally two broods, with the original nest being reused for the second brood and being repaired and reused in subsequent years. Hatching success is 90% and the fledging survival rate is 70–90%. Average mortality is 70–80% in the first year and 40–70% for the adult.

-- Wikipedia:

Related: People at the bagel place discussing the similarities of modern ostriches and the dinosaur ancestors of birds.

"The Ornithomimosauria, ornithomimosaurs ("bird-mimic lizards") or ostrich dinosaurs[1] were theropod dinosaurs which bore a superficial resemblance to modern ostriches. They were fast, omnivorous or herbivorous dinosaurs from the Cretaceous Period of Laurasia (now Asia, Europe and North America)."

-- Wikipedia:

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ray Bradbury: Yesterday to Forever

In his New Yorker essay that landed in mailboxes the week of his death, Ray Bradbury pretty much said that for a small-town child listening to the wind blow in the early 20th century, big cities were as distant as Mars -- so when airplanes had barely been invented, why not imagine a rocket?

"I would go out to that lawn on summer nights and reach up to the red light of Mars and say, 'Take me home!' I yearned to fly away and land there in the strange dusts that blew over dead-sea bottoms toward the ancient cities," he wrote, saying what had always been between the lines.

A proudly different autodidact, he invented the world he wanted to live in when he outgrew the one he was born in.

And even when success brought money and fame, he still went there:

“I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room,” he was quoted, in one of so many blossomings of memory that sprung up on his passing as quickly as dandelions on a summer lawn after the rain.

Bradbury wrote equally about rockets and Mars, and about memory, yearning and the machineries of joy -- from motherless children provided with a robot grandmother, to carnivals and sideshows.

I've read Bradbury all my life: as a child, when interplanetary spaceships seemed as real as the subway through Manhattan or the Coney Island Cyclone; as a castaway, when I was lost and he gave me a compass; and as a grownup, buying new hardcovers to replace the vanished paperbacks, while wondering how they will seem to my child.

Writing on the air in tribute, and bouncing these words off a satellite, seems a small but fitting remembrance.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Hudson River and the Ocean

Sometimes, when there's lightning and thunder, I remember rain drumming on the metal roof at the  near the river. You could smell the ocean when it rained.

One day, the storm took out a few of the machines, and there were trees down everywhere. We had atomic batteries to power and turbines to speed by midway the next day.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Future #UX: There You Are

Johnny Mnemonic, 1995: Keanu Reeves in the expository opening scenes, equal parts Case from Neuromancer, and every noir lead with a hat, lives in a future that doesn't have iPhones or the cloud.  He videochats with a wall screen and a clicker, and the data he carries in the hard drive in his head gets in there with minidiscs, cables, and jacks.

But as much as the #UX of this particular future feels outdated,  if you turn the real future sideways,  it can be amazingly prescient.

Consider the form factor of the old Trimline phone. They got the size and feel of the moving parts -- the interactive part -- very much right.

Side by side, the old phone and the new one look like they came from the same dream.

And when you get to where you're going, there you are.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Obit for Flash-Matic Remote Control's Inventor

Eugene Polley, (1915-2012), inventor of the remote control, has passed away at age 96.

"Polley started work for Zenith back in 1935, straight after graduating from college. He began as a stock boy, then worked on the firm's catalog, then transferred to engineering and worked on radar during World War II.

The invention was soon succeeded by upgrades for TV sets ... and other devices.