UX = User Experience Tue, 15 Aug 2017 23:58:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 32 32 2075023 The End of Trust Tue, 15 Aug 2017 23:58:57 +0000 Read More »]]> I listened to a Radiolab podcast recently about some new technologies. One is called Adobe Voco. Voco allows you to easily manipulate audio of another person. You can even make someone say something they never said before. The other technology lets you create a video of someone saying something they have never said before. Sort of like video puppetry. (See example)

Without going into the details, this kind of technology can be used to create fake audio or video. Remember that “Grab em by the pussy” audio of Donald Trump? If that happened today, I bet he would claim that it’s “fake audio”. It’s Voco.

So if I can’t trust audio and I can’t trust video and I can’t trust what I read…what can I trust? Only what I see with my own eyes?

The world is getting more and more skeptical of “facts” and “science” for exactly this reason. Our trust has been misplaced and misused so many times that we can’t believe anything at all. Is the world round? Is Climate Change real? I don’t even know if I exist or am just a virtual being in a SIM game.

And yet, I have hope. Right now, there is a steady stream of fake news and confirmation bias on the web. I think this is making us sick. Like a virus, it is attacking our ability to live and be sane. Also, like a virus, we will build up antibodies. We will build up an immune system. It may take a generation, but we survive this plague of lies and misinformation. A future generation will understand what is real and what is not. They will do more research and understand how to balance out conflicting information. They will become savvy.

I have hope in the future that although blind trust may be completely lost, qualified trust may be restored.

If not, then I am afraid that we will spiral into a chaotic mess. Hopefully, civilization is up to the task.



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A funny thing happened on the way to the domain server Tue, 25 Jul 2017 16:27:14 +0000 Read More »]]> Marketo forgot to pay their domain bill to Network Solutions. Thus their entire service went down today.

Keep in mind, this is a billion dollar company which is part of a 10+ billion dollar private equity firm. There are over 1,200 people who work there. How could this happen?

Well, the reality is that it’s quite easy. Here is the formula:

  1. Lose alot of employees including managers over a short period of time

It’s a simple formula, I know. However, this is how things go awry. When architects leave the engineering team, the architecture falls apart. When designers leave the UX team, the consistency of the app falls apart. When managers leave, institutional knowledge evaporates. This isn’t specific to Marketo. Lots of companies, big and small, have had this problem. It threatens the very existence of the company.

So why don’t companies put systems in place to avoid this? Again, the answer is simple: Because it’s hard and costs money. It’s much easier to assume things will be OK. It’s much easier to assume things will remain the same.

An object in motion tends to stay in motion and an object at rest tends to stay at rest.  In other words, a domain name that is registered tends to stay registered.

We all act surprised when shit hits the fan because we are hard wired to assume that the status quo is permanent. This is why I love startups. Before you have customers or code that can go down, you are just building something new. Before even engineering kicks in, you have just designs on a piece of paper.

Side note: Accidentally losing your domain used to be worse. Someone would swoop in and buy it. Now Network Solutions holds it for some time to let you renew. It avoids lawsuits and is a much better system.

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Grinding Thu, 06 Jul 2017 21:11:41 +0000 Read More »]]> There are particular kinds of games where you have to spend alot of time doing simple things to get your level up. An example is killing a million squirrels in the forest so you can buy the sword to go after a dragon in a cave. This technique is called grinding.

Some games specialize in this kind of play. The psychology is pretty interesting. It clearly hits a part of my brain that is difficult to shut off. I feel like I can’t stop grinding. Madden NFL Mobile has a serious grinding mentality. I find myself needing to do it at night before I go to sleep. I know that reading a book is better for me, but I think I have some DNA that predisposes to grinding.

I think I grind in real life too. Creating took 3 years of grinding. Designing and building a product is also a grind. You add one feature at a time to build a whole over the course of years.

Another example of this is the Primitive Technology video series. I love watching these videos. They calm the inner part of my soul. This guy is in the woods and builds things with his hands, rocks, water and trees.

To build something great you have to build a series of little things first. Being a great professional in any job means doing the same thing. It means grinding towards that future. Build up your assets one piece at a time.

When people talk about grit, I think of that as the ability to grind. I think they are two sides of the same coin.

What ruins grinding is when you perceive other people succeeding without it. Maybe they “knew the right person” or maybe they were better looking or maybe they just got lucky. I have heard plenty of stories of people making millions without contributing towards that success. One guy joined Marketo a few weeks before all the stock was fast-forwarded and vested and paid out. He made millions and quit a few weeks later. Totally lucky and unfair, but such is life.

I could dwell on this, but it would only make me unhappy. Rather, I should focus on the grind in front of me. Build something great, keep building. I don’t think of grinding as unpleasant. It actually makes me feel focused. I am moving the ball forward each day.

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An ABM Adventure Wed, 21 Jun 2017 16:51:51 +0000 Read More »]]> I am Head of Product for Engagio, a SaaS application with lots of features and users who use them. (Is there any other type of SaaS application?)

Warning: This blog post throws data around the web with total abandon and gets confusing. You have been warned.

My Mission: To activate and spur usage in the system.

First Step: Usage Tracking
If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. (Thanks, Avinash for that lesson over 10 years ago.) We use Pendo for application usage tracking and other stuff. We spent a few weeks tagging every feature in the app and rolling up those features so we can have usage charts like this:

Users –> Contacts
The next step was to get users from the application into Salesforce. This required some engineering help (Thanks, Shaun and Abhishek!). We had some issues with parsing Full Name into First and Last Name. Plus we ended up with some duplicates before we tweaked the system to get it just right. Finally, all users were automatically created in Salesforce as contacts.

I wanted to focus on the group of people that I would have the most success with. I thought the Sales users with some usage in one part of the product but not the other would perfect. However, I didn’t have everything I needed to do that. We used a series of partners, ClearBit, UpWork, LinkedIn, and their user profile to create a field called Best Title.

By using Marketo, we automatically had those contacts sync down to the marketing automation system. I used a smart campaign to use all of those possible titles to create one field called Best Title. Then I used the Marketo Segmentation tool to group different titles into departments. Sales, Marketing, Ops, Executives, etc. I still have some that defy interpretation. However, I had my department segment.

Usage Fields
We created several different fields in Salesforce/Marketo called Pendo (Feature) Usage 7d.  I chose 7 days as a decent measurement of activity, but I imagine we will need 14 or 30 days in the future. I also created definitions for Alive (Normal Use), Dead (No Use) and Life Support (Minimal Use).

Last Mile for the Data
Finally, we figured out how to pump the usage data from Pendo into Salesforce which would sync down to Marketo. I could then make smart lists of the different segment/usage patterns and craft a report that had roles and usage in a matrix. Also, I could pick the particular segment I wanted. (Sales users with one product use, but not another.)

Taking Action
I didn’t just want to send a mail blast to these users. What would be the point? You can’t spur action with a generic message. It has to be specific. This is where we come full circle back into Engagio. I created a Play to reach out to this segment. It wasn’t super complicated.

  • Step 1: A personalized email
  • Step 2: Wait for a week and check their usage
  • Step 3: LinkedIn connection request

By setting up a trigger, I could have this play automatically kicked off and give me tasks to do. The email looked/felt/was totally hand-written, but the system lets me scale that effort to reach more people easier. Plus, it kept track of who I reached out to so I could follow up without needing to create a bunch of tasks in my calendar.

I just got started with this initiative, but so far I have a 50% reply rate. Not click rate or open rate. This is a REPLY!  Most of the replies have indicated that they were unaware of the feature. I follow up with each person to see how we can get them aware. Plus, I am working with our onboarding team to make sure we focus on awareness in the product rollout.

Account Based Journeys
Everyone knows Top of Funnel. This is going on a journey from never having heard of a product to closing the sale. You can break this down into funnels like Aware, MQA (Marketing Qualified Account), SQA (Sales Qualified Account), Opportunity, Closed-Won. In addition, there are other journeys such as:

  • Onboarding
  • Healthy Usage
  • Advocacy
  • Renewal
  • Up-sell/Cross-sell

Each journey involves coordination/orchestration, communication (phone, email, direct mail), sales and messaging. Each journey does their job in a slightly different way, although they all share common characteristics. The one I was working on was Healthy Usage. I was using Sales, Marketing and Product functionality. I consider these systems to reside in the same “cloud”. Data should move fluidly from one system to the next.

I think this little adventure is hard for people to wrap their heads around, but the results are important. I believe Marketers need to wrap their heads around projects like this if they want to expand their career horizons and become more strategic. Hopefully, you found it useful and entertaining.

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Why I eat food Fri, 09 Jun 2017 16:19:11 +0000 Read More »]]> I can think of five reasons I eat food.

  1. Hunger
  2. Boredom
  3. It tastes good
  4. Food is in front of me
  5. Other people are eating in front of me

I almost never eat food because I’m hungry. When I was 17 I was hungry all the time. I could eat ALL DAY. However, this has waned for me in recent decades. I don’t think I have been truly hungry all year. I know there are plenty of people in the world who are hungry. I am just not one of them. Let’s call this 0%.

I’d say I eat because of boredom about 5% of the time. Not that often, and it usually is on the weekends if I am by myself. It kills time and is something to do.

It tastes good
This is true for probably 20% of all my food. Specifically, if I make a meal and it’s too much food, I will keep eating until it’s gone. Maybe it’s my heritage that I was brought up to not waste food, but I have alot of trouble stopping mid-meal. In most restaurants, the portion size is twice what I truly need. Finishing meals is not a virtue.

Food is in front of me
Let’s say I am at a party and there are hors d’ ordres being served. I will eat it even if it tasted bad. It’s one of those things where the food calls out to you like a Greek siren in Odysseus. This isn’t all that often, maybe another 5%.

Other people are eating in front of me
Let’s call it 70% of the time, I eat because it’s a social setting like a family dinner or team lunch. I can’t just sit at a table while other people eat. Even if the food is terrible, even if I am not hungry, I will at least pick at the food. I went to a family event on the east coast last month and they had all kinds of eating moments. Pre-party, morning brunch, lunch, dinner, etc etc etc. I found myself eating WAY more than normal. Most of the food I eat is in social situations. When I am alone for a day or two, I eat less. My doctor said that “3 square meals a day” a fiction foisted on us by lobbyists of farmers and other food industry companies. They wanted to sell more food. We don’t need three meals a day. We are actually fine with just one.

None of this is meant as a diet or a suggestion of how to lose weight. It’s just an introspective look at myself. I find looking at details of one’s life is an excellent exercise for the designer’s mind.

At the beginning of the year, I had this weird thing where I wasn’t very hungry. I started losing weight because I was eating about half as much food. I have had no other symptoms since then. I think that last year, I ate for the same reasons as above, but I just had no desire to stop. I just kept stuffing food in until I couldn’t eat another bite. Since losing weight, I have tried to make it a habit to avoid eating as much as I did previously. I hope that habit will stick for the long term.


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Sphere of Influence, Control, Concern Tue, 06 Jun 2017 01:38:35 +0000 Read More »]]> An interesting way to frame an employee is by spheres, specifically three of them:

  • Sphere of Control is the stuff you can decide on your own. This is people you manage and project you do the work personally.
  • Sphere of Influence is stuff that you can guide through collaboration or subtle techniques. Your friendly co-worker is part of your sphere of influence.
  • Sphere of Concern is stuff you care about but you have no way to influence it. This might be happenings in other departments in which you don’t have strong connections.

Let’s take a look at some different circle widths and how they change things.

The Influencer
These are the best people in an organization. They don’t control a whole lot, but they influence a ton of things. Product Managers usually have little managerial control, but work with many people in the company. In general, you want people like this. However, they can get very unhappy if their sphere of influence diminishes. I used to be a person like this at Marketo. I had the ear of many of my fellow co-workers. Unfortunately, under one of my less favorite bosses, my influence slowly melted away. (long frustrating story) That left me in the state of the next archetype.

The Complainer
I became the complainer because I had this little tiny sphere of control, not much smaller than my sphere if influence. Most people hate to be in this position, and I certainly did. The problem with this diagram is that the sphere of concern is enormous, but the person can’t do anything about it.

The Individual Contributor
See how much better this is? They have the same influence and control as above, but they have a much smaller sphere of concern. They are happy because their world is smaller and their ability to influence their sphere of concern is “proportional”. That’s a key insight here. Proportionality is the key to success and happiness. Don’t let your sphere widths get out of whack.

The Group Manager
Of course, you can give someone more power, more control by promoting them and giving them many people to manage. If they have a circle like the following then I would propose they should care more about the other areas of the company.

The Perfect Balance
The best situation is when you balance out people’s aspirations of concern and their influence and control. You generally want people to be influential, but not at the cost of their own areas or their sanity.

Is this blog post the most wisdom filled block of text I ever wrote? Probably not, but they can’t all be zingers. I need to keep it balanced!

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The Sweet Spot Wed, 31 May 2017 19:54:02 +0000 Read More »]]> There are many manifestations of the sweet spot.  Some examples:

Product Strategy
In this image, the sweet spot is avoiding competition while also focusing on what you do best. If you focus on the customer needs and ignore your own capabilities then you run the risk of failure to execute. If you only focus on what you can achieve, you might not find a market. If you drift too close to the competitors it creates other problems.

This image of a gold club shows how hitting the wrong part of the club yields a bad shot. There really isn’t alot of space for doing it right. You either hit the sweet spot or you have a lousy shot. I find tennis has the same effect.

Your Career
It’s tough to manage your career, but this chart shows how many people end up unhappy. Each circle is important and you need to balance them out.


I’ve seen marketing go awry hundreds of times. My first product had terrible marketing despite being a good technology. I’ve also seen the opposite. The sweet spot is a balance.

One might argue that you can’t have it all. The sweet spot isn’t trying to magically be great at everything. It’s a worldview, an approach to life that says not to be extreme. Don’t just focus on one issue. Balance the issues out.

One might argue that this will lead to Jack of All Trades, Master of None syndrome. Although this is possible, I think it’s not a bad outcome. I love people who can do lots of things. Being a utility player, someone who can be flexible is important. That doesn’t mean you are bad at everything, but you don’t have to sacrifice other good things and obsess just about the one.

Balance in life, balance at play, balance at work.  That is the true sweet spot.

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Managing Up, Down and Across Tue, 16 May 2017 22:09:31 +0000 Read More »]]> Career Phase 1 – Be Manageable
When you get your first job you need to work on being manageable. This means taking direction, taking feedback, working hard, being responsible for your work, taking pride in what you do. In the dawn of your career, this skill will make you valuable in an organization. No one likes a young worker who can’t take direction or isn’t responsible for their effort. There is no magic trick to this. You have to be open, honest and work hard.

Career Phase 2 – Manage Across
Managing across is about getting along with peers. It’s unlikely you will get promoted if your peers don’t like you. Managing across is about making friends, but it’s also about helping coworkers succeed. The best employees help their peers to succeed. They are called multipliers. They don’t just do work, they make other people more productive. Some magic here: take your peers to lunch. Break bread with people who don’t like you. Win them over. Ask how you could help them. Ask them for help on simple things. Ask their advice. Listen to their stories. Ask questions about the details they describe. Show interest and appreciation. Don’t be fake. Be a good coworker. If you think its fake to listen to someone’s stories then maybe you aren’t a good listener…YET.

Career Phase 3 – Managing Up
To move up in your career, you need to manage upwards. This is more difficult than managing across. Your boss has his/her own point of view, motivations, and strategies. They are trying to climb up the ladder as well. Managing up requires understanding how they frame decisions and the world. Fit into that frame. It’s not about sucking up. It’s about empathizing with what they are trying to do. Ask questions about how they frame the decision. Ask what you need to do to succeed. Secret magic: Never ask permission to do something you know is right. Asking permission is basically transferring risk from you to them. You can say, “But my boss said it was OK.” Bosses need plausible deniability. They have no incentive for you to try something risky on their backs. Don’t ask them to take on the risk. If you believe in it, then do it and come what may. If it fails, it fails. Take your lumps like a grown-up. If it succeeds, give credit to the boss. Managing up is taking responsibility for your actions and protecting your boss from risk or failure.

Career Phase 4 – Managing Down
Once you have a team of your own, you need to manage them. I would suggest reading The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. Managing down is all about team building. This includes hiring people and developing them over time. Team fit is the #1 criteria in my mind for success. A poor fit will give you massive heartache. My first rule of hiring is “Don’t hire B+ people.” B+ people are everywhere. They are fine, they get the job done. Never hire them. Hold out for an A- or better. Take the stress and pain that comes from waiting for the right person. It’s much better than hiring the wrong person and regretting it. Optimize for culture fit. Also, be transparent with your team. Tell them when they are fucking up and when they did well. Give feedback early and often.

I could write tons of details on all the 4 phases, but I thought it would be helpful to have this framework.



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The UX of Marketing SWAG Wed, 26 Apr 2017 20:21:28 +0000 Read More »]]> In Engineering terms, SWAG stands for Silly Wild Ass Guess. It’s used to estimate how big a project will be. It’s pretty unscientific, but useful for planning.

In Marketing circles, SWAG means Stuff We All Get. SWAG is generally a gift given to prospects and customers.

(I think the SW is pronounced similar to the bicycle SCHWINN, not like the word SWAY.)

SWAG should achieve three purposes:

  1. Make the recipient feel appreciated by you
  2. Make the recipient feel appreciative towards you
  3. Piggyback advertising. If they use/wear something that has your logo on it, other people will see it

Is SWAG common?
Yes, gifts to customers are as old as business itself. It started out as a simple thank you note. Maybe that turned into a free dinner or lunch. Eventually, it became free tickets to a show. When marketing got involved, they realized they could give a gift that actually served more purpose than just #1 and #2 above. They could brand the gift. This led to a whole cottage industry around SWAG and it’s extremely common.

Is SWAG ethical?
The saying, “There is no such thing as a free lunch” originated with the practice of salespeople paying for your lunch in the hopes that they could convince you to buy their products or services. It’s a bribe, plain and simple. It’s often not explicit, but it’s a bribe nonetheless. However, I would posit that all forms of appreciation are bribes. When I say thank you to someone, I am participating in a social contract. You treat me nice and I will treat you nice. Bribes sound bad but are actually a critical part of doing business. The whole point of the social contract is that things go better when we adhere to the rules. I say “Thank you”, you say “You’re welcome”.

Referral programs are an explicit bribe. If you refer someone, I will give you cash. The only thing more “bribey” is saying “I will give you an advance on the referral. I’ll pay you now and hope for the referral later.” This is clearly illegal in certain circumstances like politics. However, bribes like this happen all the time. The reason it happens is because it generally works.

Is there bad SWAG?
Yes, bad swag is when it feels heavy handed or the gift is inappropriate. Like if you sent an iPhone case to someone with an android. They would feel annoyed, instead of grateful. Bad SWAG is also when the gift feels cheap or overdoes it with the branding. If it’s a t-shirt, don’t just have your logo on the front and back. Keep it simple and classy. Otherwise, they won’t feel #1 or #2 at all and therefore won’t wear it. Remember the purpose. Don’t overdo it.

The best SWAG is thoughtful and useful. Sometimes, it’s just entertaining. For example, Engagio just sent out Bobbleheads that were custom designed for people based on their LinkedIn photo. Not useful, but entertaining.

Anything else interesting about SWAG?
Whenever you have an interesting gift, people will copy it. For example, Engagio had Gio socks last year. This year, lots of people had branded socks. If everyone has socks, then they are not interesting anymore. You have to constantly look for new and different things to give as gifts. We have tried Kindles with eBooks about Marketing on them. We have tried umbrellas and water bottles and other items. Whatever you do, it won’t last forever. You have to keep innovating.

SWAG is a good thing but can go wrong. They aren’t free. You need to follow up with the gifts. You can’t just give someone an umbrella and hope for the best. You need to call them and email them and set up meetings. You have to invest in their happiness and appreciation. This is true for prospects as well as customers.

Invest in your audience and they will invest in you. It’s the social contract.

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The UX of Figma Fri, 21 Apr 2017 21:13:51 +0000 Read More »]]> The CEO of Figma recently visited me and gave me a quick tour of their product. I think it holds great promise as a prototyping/design tool and I am giving it a try. The main benefit is real-time concurrent usage. In other words, two designers can collaborate live at the same time the way you might use a Google spreadsheet. I know that Adobe XD has been promising this feature for 6+ months, but the tool doesn’t even have a workable Windows version yet. I ran out of patience and am trying the competition.

My initial usage is slow, I’m learning a new tool.  Rather than use it for a few days and then review, I am going to document my first few hours with it.

  1. Italics. It took me 2 minutes to figure out how to make text italics. I was looking for a button [I] but it was actually a drop down box. I need to get faster at it.
  2. Zoom. It’s just not very smooth. Slow it down with more intermediate points. Maybe provide a slider?
  3. Components. I am struggling a little of how best to organize. I am just guessing.
  4. Sizing. I really don’t need things to be 22.48px wide. 22px is fine. Can there be an option to make 1px the minimum increment?
  5. Moving things. I have a component with two elements in it. I am trying to move one of them. Not letting me. Grrrr…
  6. Rulers as guides. Hmm, innovative. I kinda like that.
  7. Publishing to the library. That works nicely.
  8. Projects. I think I need one of those, but how do I get to it? Oh, it’s called files? Hmm. A bit confused, but Ok.
  9. Preferences. Why aren’t there preferences in the desktop UI? Am I just missing where they are?
  10. Found preferences! Duh, make it available under Edit

I got better at it over the day. I think there are a bunch of little things that would smooth out the experience. Ill keep experimenting.

Plus one of their engineers actually reached out to me to ask about storyboarding and prototyping. The truth is that I can’t fully use the system until I have that.

Anyway, its good so far. More to come…

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