Being Sick

For my whole life, I have been nearly immune to the common cold.  I might get a headache or a runny nose, but I don’t ever remember running a fever or being bedridden.  This sounds good, but I think being sick once in a while is a good thing.  An excuse to take the day off and just sit in bed and drink chicken soup.

Right now, I have a cough.  My head is fine, but my throat is lumpy and I feel slightly tired.  It doesn’t feel like I should stay home from work, but it doesn’t feel normal either.  It’s a bit harder to breathe.  Coughing doesn’t feel good at all.  Like itching a bug bite, it just makes it worse.

I am taking lots of placebo and it seems to be working.  I have throat lozenges and vitamin C.  Plus tic tacs.  Those help alot.  I have to believe in them though, or they lose their potency.

Maybe I should have stayed home anyway.  I deserve it, don’t I?  The only thing is all the meetings I have.  I feel like I am letting people down if I miss them.  Of course, the world continues to spin without me.  Maybe that, is the thing that bothers me.  It’s important to feel that you make a difference.

Sometimes I imagine what the world would be like without me. Either “It’s a Wonderful Life” style where I never existed or just that I disappeared one day.  One likes to think they would leave slews of devastated people behind.

Hmm.  Maybe this is a morbid topic, but I am sick.  Cut me some slack! :)

Prediction: Upcoming Android Names

Here are all the names of the Android Operating system up until now AND what I predict they will be in the future.

  • Alpha (1.0)
  • Beta (1.1)
  • Cupcake (1.5)
  • Donut (1.6)
  • Eclair (2.0–2.1)
  • Froyo (2.2–2.2.3)
  • Gingerbread (2.3–2.3.7)
  • Honeycomb (3.0–3.2.6)
  • Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0–4.0.4)
  • Jelly Bean (4.1–4.3.1)
  • KitKat (4.4–4.4.4)
  • Lollipop (5.0)
  • Marshmellow
  • Nutella
  • Oreo
  • Popcorn
  • Quaker Oats (??)
  • Reece’s Pieces (maybe Ring Pop)
  • Snickers (maybe Skittles)
  • Taffy
  • U?  hmm  Tough one
  • V?
  • Wafer
  • X?
  • Yummy
  • Zagnut

Clearly, there are a few that are hard.  I wonder if they will skip some.  Marshmellow is a lock though.  Count on it.

The UX of Certification

A certification is a promise from the company to the management of the customer.  It means that if you (the customer) hires someone who passes the certification that we (the company) promise that they will be competent and even skilled at working the product.

Certifications are sometimes done well and sometimes done poorly. One way it can go wrong is if the test is too easy.  You end up with all these people who are certified, but are not competent.  It’s a feel good test, that gets lots of people to put the stamp on their LinkedIn profile, but it doesn’t mean anything.

Another way it can go wrong is that it is too hard to pass, specifically because the education is sub-standard. If it is too difficult to find resources, to practice on the product, to get education, then passing will seem like an impossible task.  If this is the case, then people will not bother trying.

The balance is achieved when the test is difficult, but the educational materials are ample and quality.  With good educational materials (including classes in colleges, trade schools and online) are abundant and useful, it creates a system where people can study and achieve the goal.

When that system is in place, employers can rely on the quality of the people who they assign to work on the product.  Thus they feel more comfortable with buying the product in the first place.  Good certification creates a virtuous cycle towards profitability.  Skilled users = confident buyers = more sales.

If you can get your company in a position where the certification is the best, you have a chance of getting a monopoly in your sector.  It’s that critical and impactful.

How much braintrust energy does your company focus on this critical facet of the UX?

Speaking of which, it’s time for me to write more certification questions.  I am personally engaged to help.  It’s one of my top 3 UX priorities.

Halloween Rain 2014

Nothing ruins Halloween like rain.  Trick or treating becomes a major hassle.  It’s just a downer.  We need the rain in California, but still, couldn’t it have started tomorrow?  Who is running this thing?

It’s also bummer when you dress up and 95% of your company doesn’t participate.  Like it’s some sort of ridiculous thing.

Halloween is the perfect excuse to let loose; to be creative; to throw caution to the wind and be silly.  To tap into your inner child.  Fear is the enemy.  Fear of being embarrassed.  It’s healthy, creative and productive to change it up at least once a year.

The first years at Marketo, I was the only one who dressed up.  That sucked, but I took one for the team.  Now, at least a few people get in the spirit.  How can it become a higher percentage though?  Maybe we should have costumes here pre-ordered and people could just pick one out and give it back at the end of the day.

Did you dress up today?

Help me turn that frown upside-down.  Send me a picture of you in your costume.  Put a link in the comments.


P.S. I have a new costume every year.  This year, I am an Elf.  Under my jacket, however, is a t-shirt of the Grinch.  Don’t tell Santa!

Positive Mental Attitude

It’s important to try things.  I don’t mean try them for 10 seconds.  I mean give it an honest chance at success.  I see it all the time, projects start with no real commitment and therefore no chance of success.  It’s all about having a positive mental attitude.

I remember many years ago, I saw a Tony Robbins speech. (The man is enormous, with a gigantic head).  I went with a few other people.  For those who have never seen it, a Tony Robbins show is a very interesting gathering.  People are amped up, screaming and yelling back to him.  It was high energy and clearly a cult-like group/experience.  I was the only one of my little party who tried to go along with the gag.  I yelled back to him, I listed closely to what he was saying. (He had a pearls of wisdom I carry with me to this day)

Everyone else in my little group was making fun of the whole crowd.  They poo-poo’d the concept and wouldn’t engage.  They thought it was silly and only for sheeple. (Sheep-people)

It’s easy to make fun of something.  It’s easy to hate food (movie/city/book)  before you experience it.  It’s easy to be a naysayer.  It’s hard to give something a fair shot.  It’s hard to believe, even when you don’t believe.

From my perspective, when I see someone go into a new experience with this negative attitude, I know that it will fail.  It’s extremely rare to succeed when you go in thinking it won’t.  I see it as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Think of the last new thing you tried.  Were you skeptical right from the get-go or did you suspend disbelief and try to make it work.  Things don’t always turn out well.  In fact, new experiences will likely be sub-optimal.  But if you don’t try, you won’t learn.  Fail (with a good effort) and Learn are synonyms to me.

Give new experiences the best chance of success.  Have faith until you learn the truth.  Then you can discard the faith and rely on the experience.


Life isn’t fair

I’ve heard this many a time from an emotional child (or adult), “It’s not fair!”

This got me thinking.  What is fair?  Where does this idea come from?  Clearly even animals can sense when something isn’t fair.  Check out this video showing what I mean. (1 min)

Where does this feeling come from?  Why do we constantly compare our lives to our surroundings.  Can’t we just be happy with what we have?  Clearly not.  Saying to the monkey, “Hey, it’s better than starving to death.”

I’ve often tried to teach perspective (unsuccessfully) to my kids. They seem incapable of seeing how much good they have.  Our brains are wacky things.

A colleague (Atanasio) said something very interesting about the subject.

He said, “There is this knowledge buried deep in all living things that there is something perfect…fair.  However, we also know and feel (on a regular basis) that THIS (our reality) isn’t it.  Where we live and breathe isn’t perfect and isn’t fair. This perfect place is somewhere else.  The real question is whether that other perfect place exists.”

Here are a few pithy quotes I roll out to people on this subject:

  • In life, you don’t get what you deserve.  You get what you negotiate.
  • It’s not about compromise.  You win some and you lose some.
  • Bad luck is just good karma for the future.
  • The only thing you can control is you.  Look on the bright side.

Anyway, this is what I was thinking about this week.

Is an App company or a Platform? has been a big part of my thinking over the past 7 years.  They were one of the first SaaS B2B companies to get super big. (12,000+ employees)  Additionally, they were one of the first B2B systems to have an app store and platform.  I am a serious admirer of what they have accomplished.

The history is interesting.  Way back in the day, Intuit Quickbase was the first system I saw that put a user interface on top of a database.  It allowed mere mortals to create interesting systems on their own without a DBA.  The problem with Quickbase is that it had no context.  It just allowed you to build what you want.  This made sales difficult. What was it?

Salesforce improved the model by building an out-of-the-box sales solution.  Originally it was called SFA (SalesForce Automation).  Then it changed names to CRM (Customer Relationship Management). It’s the same thing, but CRM costs more and is more open to extensions. (Words matter!)

With SFA, they could sell a “solution” for sales and not just a generic “system”.  (Solutions trump systems).  This started a revolution in sales tools which moved from on-premise software (Seibel, Oracle) to the cloud.  SaaS software models allow for easier upgrading and maintenance.  Salesforce took off like a rocket.

Then, and this is the interesting part, Salesforce built a massive amount of APIs (application programming interfaces) along with a special language that you could build extensions to Salesforce that ran on their servers.  It was called Apex (it’s changed names a few times over the years).

This allowed Salesforce to legitimately claim to be a platform.  Companies could build software using Apex and integrate through their cloud APIs.  This was a big deal in the software world.  The company I work for (Marketo), took advantage of this cutting edge platform and built a super deluxe integration (bi-directional sync) and software extension inside Salesforce (Sales Insight).

Our own success had alot to do with how well they created their APIs.  Having sales and marketing alignment is difficult if the two systems don’t talk to one another.  After all, Great APIs make great partners.

Ok, so here comes the rub.  Salesforce was selling their sales solution and we were selling our marketing solution.  All is well.  Then Salesforce decided to buy some marketing companies.  First Radian6 (a social listening app); then Buddy Media (a social app generator) and finally ExactTarget (Bulk Emailer).  ExactTarget had previously purchased Pardot, a marketing automation solution, so they came along for the ride too. All of the sudden, the partnership veered towards competitiveness.

Here, Salesforce was left with an interesting decision.  Should they be a platform and allow all competitors fair treatment to compete?  Or should they be an application company and shut out their partners competitors?

It’s interesting to think about how Microsoft does things since they are the world’s most powerful platform.  Do they bar Oracle or IBM or Apple from presenting at Microsoft sponsored events because they compete with them?  I actually don’t know the answer. Anyone know?

I know that Apple doesn’t de-list Microsoft PowerPoint from the iTunes app store just because they have competitive products like Keynote.  There are words like coopetition or frenemies that describes these complex relationships.

Salesforce is having their big annual summit in San Francisco this week.  It’s the first time in 7 years that I am not attending.  I love the SaaS innovative with great APIs and strong programming platform.  However, I don’t love the that feels threatened by supportive partners.

I wish Salesforce would lean more towards identifying as a cloud platform.  The world needs that. It spurs innovation in countless business sectors.  There is actually a ton they could improve to become the “Windows of the Web”.  However, if they keep leaning towards being an application company, it becomes a barrier for young startups to build on Apex.  A company needs their platform to remain stable.  If Salesforce took the high road, I believe (with very little data to base this opinion on) that they would benefit more in the long run.

With all that said, I am still left with the question.  Who do they want to be?  A competitive app company? or a SaaS platform?  It’s hard to be both.  I could go on, but I think sometimes a good question is good enough for a blog post.

UX = User Experience