Conceptual Design

What does the product do?

Thoughts on An Event Apart San Francisco

AnEventApart Logo

We just returned from An Event Apart San Francisco and I am trying to put down notes and ideas while they are fresh in my mind. It was three full intense days of information — some great, some good, some not so much. But overall, it was a valuable experience (and they do conference right — great food, comfortable location, endless supply of coffee and sugar). My take is always unique — I overheard some people who were ecstatic over the presentations that I felt were completely off — but I have been in the business for over three decades now and I want ideas that are new to me. So here are my notes from the presentations. “The Fault, Dear Brutus (or: Career Advice From a Cranky Old Man)” by Jeffrey Zeldman A lot of what Jeffery spoke about resonated strongly: the need to force ourselves to get rid of disdain for our clients that just “don’t get it” — mutual respect is the foundation of designer-client relationship in conversation about design, focus on purpose and use and stay away from esthetics — every person has their own sometimes, people (clients, bosses) are incapable of seeing our growth as…

LinkedIn Groups

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I’ve started a discussion (or I hoped I did) the other day — it was about LinkedIn algorithms for auto moderating. These algorithms don’t work well. As an example, I invoked a group discussion I’ve started in a group where I am a moderator that was moved to “jobs” because LinkedIn didn’t understand the content. The article I shared was on the psychology of criminal sentencing research. It had nothing to do with jobs. Then when I looked around, I found other articles that people shared that ended up under “promotions” and “jobs” tabs. Different groups have different purposes. Some groups are about sharing information — I welcome people sharing articles about relevant topics. Such groups become magazines, news papers for narrow subject areas and self-selected audiences. That is very useful. Sometimes, there are discussion around these articles, sometimes not. That’s okay — that’s the kind of group it might be. When groups start, they are a potentiality — something wonderful might happen…or might not. It takes at least 500 group members to start the group moving and propagating. (I did a bit of research on this a few years ago.) Before that number, it is a lot of work…

Sage Mentors and Scholars

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One of the goals of the Sage Assembly was to facilitate opportunities for groups whose members rarely have a chance to make their voices and opinions heard at such events, whose members could benefit from the exposure to the ideas and people at the Sage Assembly, and who can take those ideas and projects and connections back to their own social networks and help them grow. To achieve this goal, Sage Bionetworks had set up a scholarship fund — Open Innovator Awards — to assist ten recipients with travel and living expenses in Paris. The recipients of the Open Innovator Awards were pulled from a pool of applicants, Sage Scholars, who have been nominated by Sage Mentors. Each Sage Mentor was responsible for selecting no less than 2 and no more than 10 Sage Scholars. Sage Mentors had complete freedom to choose those who they believe would have benefited from participating and who could contribute in a positive way to the Assembly. Sage Scholars had to be 18 years of age or older. Sage Mentors were expected to help their Sage Scholars with their applications and the final Poster Presentations: “Instances of Open Practice”. The presentations were be on display…

Mapping the Wisdom of the City

Sage Assembly 2015

One of the events at the Sage Assembly in Paris this year was the group design sessions to try to solve “problems of the city” after the Charley attack. Paris is still in shock and the city is trying to do something to heal itself. My group, led by Arno Klein of Sage Bionetworks, was charged with finding ways of using crowdmapping to help find some interesting solutions. This was a complete blue sky session. And our ideas were presented by Arno at the Hotel De Ville in Paris. Here are my prep notes for this event. Cities generate an enormous amounts of data: parking tickets data; water consumption data; number of riders using public transportation per hour per location; etc. But most of the data stays locked within isolated databases inside frequently competitive city departments. There are several cities that are trying solve the data silos problem. Palo Alto, CA, created a city API and open-sourced all city data to allow its citizens to discover problems and develop novel solutions. One of the prevailing problems, even after the break down of data silos, is that the data is not normalized, making it very difficult to manipulate. Data normalization can…

2015 Paris Sage Assembly Summary Slides

Institut Pasteur Sage Illustration

In 2015, the first Sage Assembly was held at the Institute Pasteur in Paris: http://sagebase.org/paris-assembly-2015-april/ Below are my slides from the last day’s concluding remarks. 1. Let me start by saying what an amazing experience the last few days have been. Interesting ideas, great people, innovative solutions all came together here, in Paris. Thank you institute of Pasture for being such wonderful hosts. 2. And of course none of this would have happened if not for one man, one American in Paris, Steven Friend. Thank you for working so hard to change the world, Steven! 3. And all of us! Don’t we group well? But there are still some obvious empty pins on this map. The World-wide Sage Community has room to grow! So let me come straight to my topic — how do we create systems that help us change the world? How do we design and foster supports , scaffolds that make open data initiatives possible? Well, I believe we have to start by understanding the people and communities in which they work. And we need to think about how change propagates… 4. Change can be sparked by a single individual and then move all the way up…

Gamification and Sociobiology

Portable Heart Monitor

For the last several years, the has been a steady drum beat: Gamify, Gamify, Gamify. Universities are struggling to gamify their students and curricula, hospitals seek to gamify their staff, corporation are trying to gamify their sales strategy. Gamification is everywhere. What’s lacking is a clear understanding of what it is and what it isn’t. Here is a couple of examples where gamification of user activity was causing direct harm. Understanding what drove undesirable behavior allowed designers to remove those aspects from interaction intentionally. And an example of using gaming strategy to increase sales. Online Support for Anorexia Patients British online support site for young eating disorder sufferers provides access 24/7. It is absolutely vital to help children during times when they feel vulnerable, especially once they’ve been released from a program. But old habits are hard to break. It’s easy to devolve into a numbers games on a public BBS — “I’ve lost/gained 5 pounds in the last 2/4 days” is an absolute trigger message for a person recovering from anorexia. Anorexia is a numbers game: How long can I go without food? How little can I eat per day? How many pounds can I lose? How fast? There’s…

Remarking on the Unremarkable

Steve Jobs Wikipedia cropped B&W

What’s the difference between a consumer of good design and a designer? Well, it boils down to the ability to notice an opportunity where a product or a fix or a nudge can make a positive difference in someone’s life. During his 1989 interview with Inc Magazine, Steve Jobs famously said: “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them.” You see, designers don’t ask for solutions. They discover them and share them with the world. So what does it take to discover a good design solution? I believe it comes down to ability to see a pain point, to notice an opportunity, to remark on the unremarkable! Allow me to share to few examples from personal experience in the last few months. Drug Labels I recently had a heart stress test. Unfortunately, the IV drug they tried to use had an unusual side effect — my heart rate would go up and then quickly drop, enabling the doctors to perform the test. The nurses scrambled for another drug, but they also needed to make a report — such and such a drug on such and such a patient resulted in bad reaction.…