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Month: September 2009

What I love about Silicon Valley

I used to live in NYC.  Greatest public transportation in the world.  Tons of different kinds of businesses.  It was a good city to live near. Now I live in San Mateo, Silicon Valley, California.  I miss the great train systems.  However, the profile of the companies here is very different.  It’s technology Mecca.  It is the center of the tech universe.  Go to a restaurant and all you will hear is “Database, Linux, storage area network, programming, tech tech tech tech tech.” I have found my people. Specifically, what I love about about Technology companies is that they are…

Rex Ryan: Twitter missed opportunity

After the Jets game, David Clowney, Wide Receiver NYJ, wrote a twitter message. “1 play in the 1st Half, 4 plays in the 2nd half . . . A bit disappointed about my playing time but very happy and satisfied about the win.” For this tweet, he was benched for next Sunday’s game by Coach Rex Ryan. I think Rex Ryan missed an opportunity.  He shouldn’t have announced this message to the press.  He should have twittered his response.  Something like: @DavidClowney: Maybe if you wouldve worked harder in practice you wouldve seen more action.  BTW, you are benched next…

Too much CO2 is bad

I just saw two sites that are incredibly disturbing.  One claims that CO2 is not a pollutant and the other is claiming CO2 is the best thing in the world for plants.  The ridiculousness of these websites is depressing, because I know that some people think that this point of view is valid. How about a website called WaterBoardingIsFun.com?  We drink water.  We swim in water.  We use water to clean our bodies in showers and baths.  Hell, our bodies are 90% water, aren’t they?  Water is the best thing in the world. We try to find signs of water anywhere in…

The UX of buying my first Smart Phone

For the longest time, I have used a cheap flip phone.  The only “feature” it had was the ability to drop it on the floor and it would continue to work.  The main criteria I had for phones was that they had to not drop my calls.  Thus, we have been Verizon Wireless customers. Cell phones for years were pathetic.  The User Experience was the worst in all of techno-topia.  The pricing sucks, the customer support sucks, the sales people are cheesy and awful.  Generally, I was praying for a way out that never arrived. Our phones had hit their…

Microsoft 7 Party Video Disaster

Sometimes marketers (no offense) are ridiculous.  Here is an example of the worst marketing I have ever seen. This video really makes me want to install Haiku.  Microsoft, you are making me crazy.  The Outlook-Word thing stinks, but this video made me throw up in my mouth.

UX and PRDs

PRDs (Product Requirement Documents) and MRDs (Marketing Requirement Documents) come in many flavors.  My question today is, “What kind of requirements doc is the most conducive to creating great UX and great products?” Let’s assume for a minute that you have a Product Manager that knows their stuff backwards and forwards.  The goal is to get that knowledge and wisdom into a format that can be easily consumed by engineers, project managers, designers, executives and potential customers.  This will make sure we are all on the same page and build something great. Other goals should include speed and agility.  By this I…

GMail and p.MsoNormal

I have one favor to ask of the GMail team.  It will help millions of people and has zero bad side-effects.  Please put the following line in your CSS. p.MsoNormal {margin: 0px} Why is this important? When Outlook sends mail that has images in the message itself, it embeds the image using a technique called UUEncoding.  It basically turns the binary image into as string of letters and numbers. The messed up part is what they do next.  They wrap the image in a <p> tag.  Specifically, a tag that looks like: <p class=”MsoNormal”>.  In the CSS block above it,…

The UX of Fax Machines

I am spoiled.  I live in an age of cut and paste, email and attach.  The fax machine, when I have to use it is a ridiculous anachronism.  I just had to use it. To dial 9, or not?  Do I dial 1 before the area code?  What is this complicated UI?  It happens to be an all-in-one scanner, printer, copier.  Which button do I press?  Paper up or paper down?  And then the thing starts eating the paper because it pulled it in slightly slanted.  Don’t eat my paper!  That’s the one with the signature! My god, this thing is horrible!…

Jets 2009 Predictions

The Jets already had their first game. So I know I will predict that one correctly.  Here are my predictions: Wk Date Game Win? 1 Sep 13 NYJ 24 @ HOU7 WIN 2 Sep 20 NE @ NYJ WIN 3 Sep 27 TEN @ NYJ WIN 4 Oct 04 NYJ @ NO WIN 5 Oct 12 NYJ @ MIA WIN 6 Oct 18 BUF @ NYJ WIN 7 Oct 25 NYJ @ OAK WIN 8 Nov 01 MIA @ NYJ WIN 9 Bye 10 Nov 15 JAC @ NYJ WIN 11 Nov 22 NYJ @ NE WIN 12 Nov 29…

The UX of BI Analytics (Demos)

Lately, I have been researching BI (business intelligence) tools and watching all their demos.  Some of the demos were horrible and others great.  I learned alot about business intelligence space.  The tools are so open-ended.  In the right hands, with the right data, tools like this are ridiculously cool.  They can help you find real insight.  However, I have this feeling that 95% of all BI users do not have the right data and do not have the right mind-set to use the tools.  I think that the vast majority of the capabilities are wasted and that most people use these tools…

Ira Glass, UX Rockstar

I listen to NPR (National Public Radio) every morning.  I have been a consistent paying member for years.  Every few months, they have a pledge week where they try and get listeners to donate money to support the radio network.  They try all kinds of techniques to increase effectiveness:  Dollar-for-dollar matching, free gifts, prizes, donate to food banks, guilt, begging, cajoling, etc. However, it was not until this pledge drive that they got an authentic UX Rockstar to help them.  His name is Ira Glass.  I have been a huge fan of his since I heard his pieces on This…

9 year old Soccer: Design Strategy

User Experience Design is about asking the fundamental question: Why?  Why do people love the things they love and hate the things they hate and ignore most of the rest?  Why does the world act the way it does? Once you understand Why something happens, you can design a strategy to maximize the positive outcomes.  A good UX advocate will find inspiration everywhere.  This weekend, I found it watching my 9 year old son play soccer. Ethan’s team was seriously outclassed.  The opposing team was much better at passing, dribbling and kicking.  90% of all the game was played on our…

Storm Large – 8 Mile

This is pure unexpected WOW.  Watch the video and ask yourself, “Did I just say wow?  That was unexpected?”  Great song, great video. I hope you like it.

The Neck of a Drop Down Menu

I have this horrible mini-UX experience in LinkedIn.  Overall, I love LinkedIn, but this one tiny thing is like a small pipe in a hallway that I keep stubbing my toe against.  You can try it out too. Go to LinkedIn and look at the top right. You see the “People you may know” box? Hover over the X and it gives you a sub-menu. Mouse over to “I don’t know them” link. The menu will often completely disappear. If you are like me (and millions of other people) you would have made a straight line from the X to…

Fun to Use or Easy to Learn?

Which is more important?  Something that is easy to learn or something that is fun to use once it’s learned? Most software developers get this exactly wrong. Riding a bicycle. At first, riding a bicycle is scary and physically painful. (Falling off a bike is not fun)  However, once you learn it, it is extremely enjoyable and the value of going much faster at a fraction of the expended energy is enormous. Skiing.  My first day of skiing was brutal.  I fell on my face numerous times and looked like a complete dork doing the pizza wedge.  Learning was hard…

The UX of Product Priorities

How do you decide what to build next?  Let’s start with some high level categories: New Whiz Bang Features.  Sales is going to love demo’ing.  Marketing is going to love the story-telling. Polish the Apple.  This is going back over existing features and making them better.  More polished, more nuanced.  Sales and Marketing won’t care, but the customer will be happy with progress and improvement. Systems Infrastructure.  Sometimes this is as simple as upgrading your version of Apache or PHP.  These aren’t sexy or feature rich, but they are the foundation of your whole product.  Ignore at your peril. Refactor…

The UX of Verizon Phones

We switched to Verizon Wireless many years ago.  We were using Cingular?AT&T and were greatly relieved when we switched.  The network was much better.  No more dropped calls, no more static.  We were in “4 bar” nirvana. We got super simple clamshell phones with virtually no features.  I bought a game for mine, Breakout. Fast-forward many years.  The iPhone has ushered in a new era of super phones.  Basically, these devices are laptops in your pocket.  They are easy to use, have full internet access and tons of apps.  The UI is like a laptop, not like a cell phone.…

Firefox, The Next Generation

Firefox has been generally open source with their design process.  It’s an interesting approach and bound to get people interested and possibily to inspire some great ideas.  On the other hand, it’s alot of work to manage the flow of ideas. Their latest challenge is to re-conceptualize how bookmarks, history and other data are rendered in the browser.  I think I have some ideas about this, but they would make some significant changes to the UI overall.  I should mock them up.  Generally, though, this is the gist of it: Have all controls, including the tabs, menus, etc hidden by…

Disgby Widget – What if I am not there?

On my blog, there is a Digsby widget that allows you to instant message me.  The problem is that I forget to sign out of Digsby at night.  So I come in to work in the morning and have 2 or 3 messages, but the person is gone from the website.  I have to remember to sign out. However, to cover the use case, I added in a contact form on the right underneath the widget.  It’s the first WordPress plugin I found that matched my needs.  I will research some more to see if there is one that is…