Adobe Experience Design (XD) – Almost

My design tools:

  1. Pencil (#2 Soft HB Dixon Ticonderoga) and paper
  2. Microsoft PowerPoint on Windows 10

However, over the years, I have tried numerous alternatives. So far, none have been better in terms of quick iterations, high (enough) fidelity, portability, and ease of communication. I have tried numerous prototyping tools, graphics editors of all shapes and online services. No joy.

Recently, Adobe has been working on a product called Adobe Experience Designer (XD). They first released it on the MacOS, which means I couldn’t really use it. Then they released an Alpha for Windows. They called it a beta, but let’s be real, it’s not useable at all. The key missing feature is symbols and layers. Symbols is the one killer feature for me. I am happy with PowerPoint EXCEPT for its lack of symbols.

What’s a Symbol?
Good question. A symbol is a reusable object that you edit in one place and use it in many other spots. For example: In my UI, I have a navigation bar. If I make a bunch of pages, the navigation bar needs to be replicated. If it’s a symbol then I can change the nav in one place and it updates everywhere. This is the biggest pain in PowerPoint.

So the big problem for me trying Adobe XD is that it doesn’t have symbols in Windows yet. I just have to be patient and wait. I’ll review it in more detail once that happens.

Is it here yet?

Product Idea for an App: Told You So

I always had this dream of an app called “Told You So“. Here are the requirements:

  1. You sign in with Google or Facebook.
  2. It asks you to make a prediction.
  3. You sign it with your finger.
  4. It has a button for “I disagree” and someone else can sign that.
  5. It stores the predictions and signatures in the cloud.
  6. Later, when the event happens, you bring the prediction back up and show it to your friend/family member and say, “Told you so.”
  7. BAM button plays the “You’re the best around from Karate Kid.”
  8. Resolve button gives you the option of who was right, or possibly “disputed results”.
  9. It keeps score for family and friends.
  10. Ability to tweet the results for a public “Told You So”

Simple app, right? I would use this app all the time. People make predictions and then say, “I never said that!” I want to write that shit down and store it in a way that can never be deleted.

I am not saying this app would have Flappy Bird kind of success, but I think it would do well.

Speaking of which, here are some predictions for 2017:

  • Politics: Trump will make me sad for at least 20 unrelated reasons. Also, despite lots conflicts of interest, Trump will not be sanctioned in any real way in 2017.
  • Sports: Andy Murray will win the Australian Open in Tennis
  • Culture: Casey Affleck will win Best Actor for Manchester by the Sea
  • Stock Market: Dow Jones will be at 21,951 on Dec 31, 2017
  • Work: Engagio will be growing like mad. (OK, this one is self-serving)
  • Tech: Battery technology will FINALLY take a step forward. 2x life.
  • Medicine: The world’s first HIV vaccine becomes commercially available
  • Personal: My oldest kid will be accepted into Stanford. (Wishful predicting)
  • Personal: My middle kid will record 5 full songs on his first LP. He will refuse to let me watch him perform.
  • Personal: My youngest will read a book that I suggest. (long shot)

Predictions are difficult. You have to be willing to be wrong and take a stance on something. Let’s meet back here in a year and see how I did.

Happy Holidays!

Eero Wifi Review (Day 2)

My house is shaped funny. This results WiFi dead spots. This weekend, we moved a bunch of furniture around to give two of my kids their own room, rather than sharing. Doing something like that always involves alot of work you didn’t expect and plenty of dust in the air which made my left eye blood red.

After moving the office downstairs, I realized that our dead spot problem was now blocking computers from the internet completely. I had to find a solution for 3 floors, 2 TVs and about 10 other roaming devices. Previously, I had tried WiFi extenders, but they always seemed to causing problems. Setting them up always was finicky and the speed was terrible. Also, I had a system using PowerLine adapters which was expensive and somewhat limited.

Enter Eero

I actually started researching this new technique when Google announced their own offering which is launching in December. I was going to wait, but circumstances intervened with the move.

The concept is called Mesh WiFi. You buy three pucks and plug them in. You install an app on your phone and control everything from there. I have used Web applications to control routers for almost 20 years. This was a very new concept for me.

I can’t emphasize enough how easy the whole setup was. Installing the app was obviously simple. Registration took virtually no time. It recognized the pucks below quickly. There was basically nothing to do. It just worked.

The app did a speed test and matched roughly the speed I wanted. There were no dead spots. I got rid of my router and got rid of the powerline adapters. Now, we are 100% WiFi. We have officially cut the ethernet cord.

It’s expensive. The three pucks cost $400 + tax. However, the amount of time this has saved me is worth it. I was considering returning, but if the speeds keep up. I think they earned the money. Nice work Eero.

Note: I didn’t try Netgear Oobi or Luma, but they are basically the same idea.

Verizon didn’t exactly buy Yahoo

In the news today it says “Verizon Announces $4.8 Billion Deal for Yahoo’s Internet Business” and “Verizon Buys Yahoo for $4.83B”. This confused me at first because Yahoo has over 40 billion in assets. Then I read the article and realized that Verizon bought the operating business but NOT the capital and assets.

Here is the relevant part:

“After the sale is completed early next year, Yahoo will become a holding company for its two stakes in China’s e-commerce leader, Alibaba Group, and Yahoo Japan. Those investments” … “are worth more than $40 billion before taxes.”

“Yahoo also still has a patent portfolio that it intends to sell, and about $7.7 billion in cash.”

“The holding company will drop the Yahoo name and adopt a new identity after Verizon takes control.”

With that much money and holdings, the new identity (let’s call it NewHoo!) could potentially become the world’s largest venture capital firm. My prediction is that NewHoo! Investments becomes a world behemoth in VC. This will spur innovation (and some wasted effort) in lots of new companies.

It’s possible they retain some building space and do a Y Combinator space sharing incubator thing with their investments.

For Verizon, the deal makes sense. They need page views to put their AOL (purchased last year) ads on. 5 billion is chump change to them. It might as well be a life-style purchase.

For Yahoo! it makes even more sense. They have no reason for making content. They don’t know who they are. This is way to put their assets to work. They collect 5 billion and sell another 7 in patents. Google and Microsoft are likely bidders in that war.

So, Verizon bought the crap Yahoo wanted to get rid of. Yahoo becomes the worlds largest VC. And the world keeps on spinning. Long live Silicon Valley.

The Uncanny Valley

The Uncanny Valley
used in reference to the phenomenon whereby a computer-generated figure or humanoid robot bearing a near-identical resemblance to a human being arouses a sense of unease or revulsion in the person viewing it.

In other words, the uncanny valley is when something looks close to the real thing but our brain freaks out and keeps saying, “Something is wrong.” If you have ever been to a Wax Museum, you get that feeling alot.

which is real?
It’s really easy to tell which is real and which is fake, but look closely. They are very similar. This is a really close match, like a wax statue
Uncanny Valley
The uncanny valley is what happens when your brain tries to make it real, but keeps finding flaws.

I have been a fan of this new technology called a Bond letter. It’s kind of awesome. It is a machine that writes in your own handwriting. Today, I got my hands on a real bond letter written by a robot. Here is a picture of it:


It’s hard to tell from the picture, but something just seemed wrong about it. I didn’t feel right. It felt like a machine wrote it. What was happening?

For several minutes, I studied the letter to see what my brain was “feeling”. The letters were different from each other, no pattern was visible. The line-heights were varied. However, I found a couple of flaws.

  1. The lines were perfectly horizontal. When I write on unlined paper, I never ever get the line so even. (See image below)
  2. The quality of the writing didn’t vary through the letter. Usually my writing changes from the beginning when my hand is steady to the end when it is a little tired. It’s not perfect, but it’s not unperfect enough.


In theory, this could have been written by a person, but they would need a combination of slightly messy handwriting and perfect line management. That just didn’t seem right to me.

I love that Bond is trying to get this right. It’s amazing to me that something like handwriting could trigger that weird part of our brains.

In Marketing, people send dynamic content emails all of the time. I believe that the content of the email fails the uncanny valley test all of the time. Does this sales person know me? or is it just “close” and feels wrong.

Beware the uncanny valley.

Pokemon Go is already over

The speed of memes has been rising exponentially since the industrial revolution. When I was a child and a new idea or fad became popular it would take 1-2 years for the idea to spread and take a few more years for it to become officially dead. Just look at mullets from the 80’s!

Last week Pokemon Go hit the world like a ton of bricks. There was literally hundreds of people roaming the streets staring at their phones while walking. Today, I visibly can see a drastic diminishment of the zombie numbers on the sidewalks. My oldest kid said he gave it up and started playing Overwatch.

This whipsawing effect of new memes is the fastest I have ever seen. If you weren’t part of the pokemon revolution, don’t worry. It’s already over and a new meme is about to take its place.

Here are some funny vines about Pokemon Go.

Lastly, I think the reason for the quick demise of the game is the fact that you can only collect Pokemon. You really couldn’t battle all that much. The game was just too limiting.

UPDATE: From Google Trends

Short but powerful meme.

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.