The Moth in San Francisco 2016

I am planning on talking at the next Moth meeting in San Francisco. The Moth is sort of like an open mic night at a comedy club, except it doesn’t have to be funny, it’s mostly stories.

They give a theme and each person is supposed to talk for 5 minutes. The theme on Tuesday, June 28  is Fathers. I debated which story to tell. There is the story of my grandfather who could crush shot glasses in his hands. Several other stories about my own father. Finally, I settled on a story about when I was most proud as a father myself.

Hopefully, I can tell it in 5 minutes. I should practice a bit, I think. Also, I am so used to having PowerPoint behind me with images. The story actually works better with some photos I have. I will need to rely on my story telling skillz alone.

The last short form presentation I gave was a Pecha Kucha format at a show in 2009. Pecha Kucha is 20 slides automatically forwarded every 20 seconds. (6 min 40 seconds exactly) I worked for months on those minutes. Each word carefully chosen to land on the right slide movement.

I hope I don’t embarrass myself. I also hope I get on stage. I have never done this, so in theory there may be too many people who want to speak and I don’t make it. I’ll find out when I find out, I suppose.


Analytics Design vs. Interaction Design

Interaction Design is easy for me. I can see the big picture and architect the system with all of the right patterns. When it comes to Analytics Design, I find my inner muse drags its feet. I am not talking about designing a BI tool like Tableau or Good Data. These have some interesting interactions. I am talking about the Analytics section of a workflow application.

In my mind, there are two types of people. Dashboard people and analytical people.

Dashboard People
This is the majority of people. They don’t want to slice and dice and explore. They want to know what is important without alot of work. I have heard the sentence a hundred times, “We just want a dashboard!”. This sounds good, but the problem is that dashboards typically do not get looked at with any frequency. Plus, the information on a dashboard is typically not actionable.

So this creates a tension. I can design something stupid that checks the box or something useful that people won’t use.

Analytics People
I made the analogy that Analytics is like Jazz. It’s really cool, but most people don’t understand or appreciate it. Truth, real truth, can be found inside strong analytics. The problem is that it takes discipline and knowledge to get there.

Take Google Analytics as an example. 95% of all Google Analytics users do not make custom charts. They just use the built in ones. However, if you really want to learn about your site, you need to learn about segments and filters. (Great site about analytics)

The funny thing is that dashboard people and analytics people have wildly different views on what data is and what it’s used for. It’s difficult to build a single system to solve the problem.

Well, enough procrastination. I gotta get back to designing this dashboard.

Obfuscated Rebate Programs

So this weekend, I went to the Verizon store. I have never gone into that store and left in less than 2 hours. It’s ridiculous how long it takes to get stuff done in there. The reason I was there was to get my youngest his first phone, plus to upgrade my father-in-law. He had an old original Motorola Droid.

The sales guy said they had a Father’s Day special: Buy an iPhone and get one free. We qualified for the promotion, so I said yes. I got them both iPhone 6S phones.

Here is what I wanted the experience to be:
They deduct the amount right there…and I am done. 🙂

Here is what they told me to do:

  1. You have to go online to
  2. Login with your Verizon password that has difficult requirements and you constantly have to reset the password.
  3. Use this super long code (hand written on a sticky note)
  4. Take a photo of a super long receipt that is not legible if you capture it on your phone…I ended up taking two photos and stitching them together.
  5. Take a photo of BOTH boxes
  6. Take a photo of the about page of the settings. If you didn’t have another phone, how would you do that? Mirror? Plus, it’s not the about page top, you have to scroll down to the middle to get the IMEI number.
  7. Sacrifice your first born child
  8. And do it all within 14 days
  9. THEN they will email SIX WEEKS LATER a visa card with $650 on it.
  10. You have to take the card and bring it into the store (Remember, that’s two hours minimum)
  11. They will then pay off the phone using the card.

See, easy peesy lemon squeezy, right?

Bullshit. Shenanigans!

They are counting on people giving up. They are literally stealing the rebates from people through obfuscation. They make it so hard to do, that you just give up and they keep the money. Even if you do things right, they keep the money (float) for 6+ weeks earning interest on it.

I hate these sort of programs. Don’t count on our laziness to make money. Just provide value! There should be a law outlawing this nonsense.


Random Thoughts 2016

Hillary Clinton should choose for her VP, Michelle Obama. Two former first ladies! Plus, Michelle is a serious customer. I have no idea who would win, but it sounds good.

Despite winning the most games of any team ever, the Golden State Warriors will not be considered even in the top ten basketball teams of history because they failed to win the championship. It’s similar to when the New England Patriots went undefeated in the regular season but lost in the playoffs. If you don’t win a championship, you suck. Sorry, that’s our monkey brains for us.

If it’s Father’s Day you should write a blog post about your dad. I told my son that and he didn’t seem to care. I realized this morning that I didn’t post about my own dad. Irony is ironical, isn’t it?

What is the the point of contracting the word isn’t or couldn’t? I am literally saving the space. The syllables are the same. It just seems stupid. English is stupid.

Do you think that all (most) people hate being compared to their parents? Is it a generational thing? Why do we hate it so much?

Life would be much better if I could tell the future. Like, srsly better.

My tennis is coming along, but I am still at risk of injuring myself. When you are wary of one part of your body (wrist), you might injure your elbow or leg muscle. It’s driving me crazy.

Growing up (up to 40) I never got sick. In the last 4 years, I have come down with a cold like 3 times. WTF?!

I feel better now. All of these thoughts were clogging up my brain table.

Most Viewed YouTube Videos 2016

Out of curiosity, I looked at the most viewed YouTube videos. The distribution looks like this:

That first one is Gangnam Style. This is a song, I am very familiar with. Why is it so much higher than every other? Good question. I do not have a good answer. In fact, you get music videos for almost the entirety of this list. Justin Bieber has 3 on the top 30. Katy Perry and Taylor Swift have 2 each. Psy has #1 and #28. They are all music videos except for 2 exceptions …

These are videos meant for kids. In other words, parents put the video on and sit a kid in front of it. Instant baby sitter.

The funny thing is that I really am not familiar with many of the videos on the list. They have been viewed over a billion times and I wouldn’t recognize most of them at all.

I tried to figure out how much money the authors made off the videos. It is totally unclear. There are conflicting reports between almost 1 million and 8 million. The information is a little old at this point.

In general, YouTube is not a great way to make money, although I think it has inspired a generation of kids to think about entertaining people. This is a good thing. It’s preparing them for the future.

In the future, most of the economy will be dedicated to entertaining people. – Ray Kurzweil. (Paraphrase)

Bo Burnham made this point at the end of his new special called Make Happy. Interesting times…

Design Principle #13: Give Feedback

This should go without saying, yet apparently it doesn’t.

Design Rule #13: When a user gestures or fills out a form or clicks a button or speaks their audio input or whatever…give them appropriate feedback.

Of course, the word appropriate is subjective. How do you know how much feedback to give? Let’s look at the extremes:

  1. Very little or no feedback. The user would say, “Did it work?”. Confusion is the normal result. I find that engineers often think that it’s obvious and minimal feedback is fine. This is incorrect and will lead to technical support calls.
  2. Too much feedback. Sometimes, every single gesture is met with a modal saying, “It worked!” with an OK button. This is obnoxious after a while. Your system shouldn’t be annoying. It should be polite and responsive. (Not in the mobile way, I mean in the ‘it responds to you’ way)

Here is a handy chart to understand the right level of feedback.

Good feedback should use animation when possible. Google Material Design is a great pioneer in this. Use their calculator. It has subtle but noticeable feedback with each press of a number. Contrarily, when I use Skype, the feedback is far away from the action and very hard to notice.

It’s a balance and part of the art and craft of design is striking that Goldilocks level where it is just enough, but not more.

Not Going Viral

Nothing I have done has ever gone viral. I am talking about Charlie Bit My Finger viral. (840 million views, 500k comments) Ok, maybe even something with a few thousand likes. This is the kind of viral that usually happens in numbers similar to winning the lottery. Very few have done it and usually it is just once. Some people win a few thousand dollars sometimes and it is a momentous time in their lives.

I have no direct experience in going viral or even semi-viral. I am not famous. Despite this blog being around for 19 years, nothing in it is that spectacular. However, there are a few posts that get more views every day than anything else I write. Every day, day-in and day-out.

  1. WTF per Minute
  2. Conference Room Names
  3. GMail and p.MsoNormal
  4. Interface Not Supported Windows 7

Now, of course, none of these are viral. Also, none of these are UX related. They are just posts that happened to resonate with a daily theme of Google searches. The last one is specifically a driver issue from 9 years ago. It literally doesn’t matter anymore. GMail and p.MsoNormal is from 2009 and couldn’t possibly be relevant anymore. Yet, every day it gets another 50 views.  Conference Room Names, at least that makes sense. People search for that kind of thing consistently. But MsoNormal?  Come on.  And of course, WTF per minute is a joke that I didn’t even make up.

Sometimes, I imagine something I do becoming viral. In my dreams, it is something exceptional and inspiring like MLKs “I have a Dream” speech. However, I know that it will be for something stupid. Like making a funny face or some unrelated nonsense.

We don’t get to choose how are 15 minutes of fame comes about. I can just tell you that it will be for something that annoys you. The good news is that it will only last 15 (figurative) minutes. The only thing you can do is keep trying to create. Let the universe do its thing.

Side note: I have been talking about a rollout strategy of software that is slower than viral. I call it fungal. It sounds funny to me, but it creeps some people out. This is a chart of why I think it’s funny from my blog, 5 years ago.