PoetPainter - Thoughts
Wednesday February 27, 2013 / 2 Comments

2012, the Year in Review


While this blog rarely gets any attention from me, I have continued to write and contribute in other places, both online and around the world. Before I slip much further in 2013, I though it might be worthwhile to gather some of the highlights and details that made 2012 a truly blessed and wonderful year for me.

First off, the writing…

In December 2011, Alex Duloz invited me to contribute to The Pastry Box. His pitch:

Each year, The Pastry Box will gather 30 people who are each influential in their field and ask them to share 12 thoughts regarding their work (one per month, that is). Those 360 thoughts… will then be published every day throughout the year at a rate of one per day, starting January 1st 2012.

The challenge of producing 1 new thought a month, on anything web related, seemed like a reasonable commitment (and one that would get me in the habit of writing again). What I didn’t anticipate was just how useful this would turn out for me, personally. The format encourages a more “editorial” style of writing. Sans comments, I felt free to jump on a virtual soapbox and rant about whatever crossed my mind. As it turned out, this format enabled me to uncover several topics that are, apparently, very important to me.

The importance of learning and curiosity surfaced as a recuring theme in nearly half of my posts. A few of my favorites:

Unspurprisingly, I also wrote several posts related to sensemaking and the interactive, visual display of information:

(This idea of designing for understanding is, by the way, the topic of my next book and a subject I’ve been giving numerous talks and workshops on–stay tuned!)

I was also surprised and a bit curious to discover what topics seemed to resonate (or strike a nerve!) with a large number of people. Two posts in particular seemed to get a LOT of attention:

This last post actually started as a comment in response to a question posed by Jason Putorti in Nov 2011.

Designers, what do you want to tell all those developer/founders that are looking to hire you? Any stories or bad hiring / recruiting experiences you want to share?

In the end, nearly every post I contributed to The Pastry Box turned out to be of a reflective nature, the kind of things that might still be interesting and relevant 5 or 10 years down the road, like what I look for in candidates) or when is the best time to write a book?

About halfway through the project, I started noticing the meta-narrative that is created when you read a series of thoughts, written over a span of time, from one person. In this way, you start to see what things an individual notices and find interesting, which in itself is a new post of sorts. To this end, I’ve thought about collecting these thoughts into one publication, perhaps a self-publication for myself and some close friends and family. There was a brief attempt to collect all the 2012 thoughts into a book, but sadly, there wasn’t enough interest. Oh well.

Here are all the thoughts I wrote for the Pastry Box.

Outside of The Pastry Box, I’ve contributed to a few other places, most notably Quora.com. Perhaps the most surprising response I got was to my answer to the question: What are the best UI elements (controls, patterns, etc.) that have cropped up in modern web sites and web apps recently? (1140 votes and counting!)

Speaking, and more Speaking!

6 new presentations in 13 cities, including Dublin, Rome, London, Amsterdam, Utrecht, and (drumroll) Israel! There was also some domestic travel, I’m looking at you Memphis, Boston, New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, MSP.

It’s hard to pick a favorite talk or venue. But, being invited to give the closing plenary at the Euro IA was, in addition to being a great honor, a great chance for me to refocus and crystalize a lot of my own interests. I chose to focus on the theme of curiosity, and how this one trait is drives learning and the entrepreneurial spirit. This topic also affored me the chance to share the things I’m curious about:

This was followed a few months later by my first ever TEDx talk—another great honor for me.

I have to say, I spent more time working in this one 15 minute talk than perhaps any other I’ve ever given. Between research and rehearsal, 100s of hours normally go into developing a new talk–this talk took things to a whole new level!

The biggest compliment I received on this talk came from my sister, who commented:

I finally understand what my little brother does!

I should also mention a talk I’ve only given once, at the IA Summit, about our brains and perception: “What’s Your Perception Strategy? Why It’s Not All About Content”

This talk is my response to the notion that “It’s all about content!” (it’s not). I wanted to reframe the conversation and get people thinking about how our brains come to perceive and make sense of external stimulus. Yes, content is very important, but perceptions of said content trump everything else. This is one of those ideas that, once it sinks in, totally changes how you approach just about everything you do—from designs to social interactions. I should also add, there’s a danger with most talks on the brain in that’s little practical knowledge to use in our daily work; while this was more about a single idea, I think I succeeded at delivering some practical tips near the end of the talk. I had a great time with this one, and would love to give it again. And it involves local artisan chocolate. Mmm.

2012 saw me talking mostly about information visualization, or more accurately, getting from information to understanding. Here are two slidedecks I’ve shared on this subject:

While there is some overlap in these two decks, this first one is more conceptual, given as a keynote at BigD.

…while this is the more pragmatic version, with more examples of what I’m advocating:

My biggest challenge with these talks has been figuring out how to describe what, exactly, I’m talking about. It sits somewhere in between print infographics (the good kind!) and data visualization. At the core, it’s about displaying information in a way that is highly visual, interactive, and ultimately conveys meaning and understanding, something missing from most sites today. Based on feedback from various folks, I’m feeling more comfortable with the latest title and description of this talk:

Design for Understanding: Solving the Small Data Problems There’s a small a small data problem, and we’re partly to blame. As IAs and designers, we put a lot of content in front of users. But how good are we at helping people make sense of that content once it gets published to the page? Sure, we provide search, sort, and filter tools, and we rely on common design patterns (lists, grid views and the like), but are these really the best ways to make sense of complex information? Be honest, how useful were these tools the last time you shopped for a new TV or digital camera? Ready access to information is great, but we need better tools to make sense of it all, tools that let us explore content, in rich, visual ways. In this workshop, Stephen will share the process he uses to create simple visual representations to help people make informed choices and understand complex information. In the same way that charts and data visualizations help us sift through numeric data, we need similar tools that allow us to interact with content and concepts. In brief, design patterns such as spreadsheets, lists, dashboards and grid views suffice for getting information onto a screen. However, when it comes to making sense of this information, these same patterns hold us back from designing great experiences; generic patterns are poor substitutes for a good custom visualization, especially one designed for the content being displayed.

And if this sounds interesting to you, be sure and sign up for the workshop! ;-)

Closing out the year…
As it this wasn’t already a crazy and blessed year, four more noteworthy events happened, nearly all in December.

  1. I was invited to speak at Time-Life, to the heads of all their online publications. That’s People, InStyle, Time, CNN, Real Simple, Fortune, Sports Illustrated—you get the idea!
  2. I was interviewed by Forrester for their report on Digital Customer Experience Trends To Watch, 2013. I’ve been a huge fan of Forrester since the 1st startup I joined back in the late 90s. To be interviewed by them was a great honor for me, personally.
  3. Out of nowhere, Christina Wodtke as me to answer “What is UX?” for a reboot of the Boxes and Arrows site. She caught me at a good moment, and I pounded out a rant that changed very little from initial draft through final publication (go ahead, read my response –- it’s not what you think!)
  4. I was invitied to contribute to a last minute project: UXMas! Think 24 thoughts (from people much smarter than me!) for the festive month of December. And one last zinger— I was to write for the 24th! Given such an significant day, I decided to pull out all the stops and share the single best exercise I know of for crafting a better user experience. The topic? UX Design, Role-playing & Micromoments (This, by the way, is the topic of a new talk I’ve now given at two 2013 events in Chicago and Israel.)

Anything else?

Oh yeah, 2012 was great in other ways: Great clients and project work. Great family stuff going on, including a move to a new house! But, that’s all for another time and place…



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Tuesday August 24, 2010 / 3 Comments

Radio Silence No More?

Yes. The post prior to this one was more than a year ago. I never considered myself a blogger, but sheesh, a year between posts merits some explanation. After all, it’s not like I haven’t had plenty going on in the past year. (If you already follow me on twitter, you’re probably scratching your head at the title of this post— just look at this as a summation of the last year.)

So, before I try jumping back into my meager two-posts-a-month-habit (I do have some interesting things to write about), here’s a very brief recap of what “the PoetPainter” has been up to…

Speaking / Traveling:
In the last year, I’ve:

  • created 4 new presentations and 2 workshops (see below)
  • presented at 18 events in 13 different cities
  • published 4 articles
  • created 1 new poster/infographic (look for a post, soon)
  • been interviewed by numerous folks, including Jared Spool and Paul Boag
  • traveled to 13 different cities, including Toronto, Amsterdam and London.
  • spoken at some pretty awesome events, like UX London, The Web App Master’s Tour and SxSW
  • had the best dish ever at Time in Philly
  • met some amazing people and made some new friends along the way

Project Work:
I’ve also worked on some really exciting projects that I haven’t really talked about (yet). Highlights:

Sidenote: I’ve also got a handful of my own ideas in search of a developer… Interested? Let me know!

Writing a Book
Yes, that’s right. By this time next year I will be a published author. I’m turning the Seductive Interactions presentation into a book, to be published by New Riders. I’m hoping that out of my new daily habit of writing (thanks 750words.com) , there’ll be more to share here and elsewhere on the Web.

Going Mental:
This was the big one: The Mental Notes card deck. Oddly enough, until a few days ago, there was no mention of Mental Notes on this site. Fixed.

Mental Notes Card DeckFor the last two years, I’ve been combing through all kinds of research related to human behavior, looking for ideas we can apply to the design of Web sites and applications. This journey has taken me into worlds like Social Psychology, Behavioral Economics, Cognitive Neuroscience, Gaming, Rhetoric, Persuasion, Seduction Techniques and so on. I started with texts like Predictably Irrational, Nudge, A Theory of Fun for Game Design before digging deeper into the research behind these fascinating reads. What came out of this study was a deck of cards. Each card represents a single idea from psychology (I use that term liberally) with some suggested ideas for how this could apply to the design of Web sites and applications. Along the way, I was lucky enough to get Kevin Cornell to create some fabulous illustrations. And my friend Steven Kidwell over at Chippenhook designed some pretty svelt packaging for the cards. The cards are finished. Now, I’ve just got to sell another 1,000 before we break even! Hint: You should really go buy a deck (or ten!) right now.

Workshop I:
Can’t wait for the Seductive Interactions book? I recently announced an all day Seductive Interactions workshop.

Photos from the Seductive Interactions Workshop

This workshop combines:
  • the theme of my original seductive interactions presentation (how to create playful and persuasive interactions)
  • with everything I learned creating the Mental Notes card deck
  • plus other odds and ends related to creating fun, playful effective sites
  • …for a pretty fun, intense day of inspiring ideas.

You can find out more information on the Seductive Interactions Web page.

Workshop II
While my focus for the last year has primarily been on the whole topic of psychology and UX, there was another, unrelated, workshop that I developed over a 6 month period:

How to Think with Pretty Pictures: Demystifying Concept Models

In addition Product Strategy & Design, Psychology and Managing Creative Teams, I also live/eat/breathe Infographics and Visual Thinking of all varieties. You can imagine then how thrilled I was to create a workshop walking through the process I use to create some of the fancy posters I’ve been known publish now and then. Slides for this workshop are available on the UX London site somewhere out in cyberspace. I hope to revisit this in the near future and offer it at other venues. If interested, let me know.

Looking Ahead:
On the immediate horizon are several conferences:

The common theme for all these presentations is psychology and design. However, I’m excited to also be speaking on some more strategic and creative themes:

  • Russ Unger and I are working on a critical thinking skills workshop (please vote if you’d like to see this at SxSW Interactive!)
  • In November, I’ll be presenting at a conference in Cannes, France on a practical “design thinking” related topic

I also have two other SxSW Interactive submissions:

(Please cast a vote if these sound good to you!)

The biggest change underneath all of this is a gradual transition, from supporting myself purely as a consultant to focusing more on speaking and training. Of course, this a risky transition. Which means it is with great optimism (and financial risk) that I’m launching the Seductive Interactions Workshop this month in Dallas (followed by Amsterdam in October?). It may fail miserably. Or it may succeed, as I’m hoping. You can decide that! Oh, if the workshop sounds like something you’d like me to bring to your city or company, just let me know via the “Where next?” form on the workshop page.

And there you have it. Stephen P. Anderson, past present and (near) future.

Now I’ve got to get back to work.

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Tuesday June 24, 2008 / 1 Comments

Changing the Experience of Search, or Why Am I at Viewzi?

Viewzi logo

So, a bit about my ‘not-so-new-anymore’ gig.

As some of you already know, I joined Viewzi, a small startup in the Dallas area, back in mid-December. For various reasons, it was a fairly quiet transition. Why? For starters, it’s been a busy time!! I’ve also been speaking and writing more on topics that didn’t seem consistent with my being at a startup, topics pertaining to management, design thinking, being a corporate change agent, social design, innovative thinkers... Topics more fitting of a consultant or director at a large company (exactly the positions I had prior to this, which afforded me the experiences to write and speak about such things). Just as investors consider the financial investment they make in a startup, I’ve had to consider the professional investment I’m making. “How is this furthering my career?” Honestly, I struggled a bit with this. But in the end, I chose to invest myself in Viewzi because it’s something I really believe in (more on that in a moment).

That said, my biggest hesitation in not being more vocal has been a personal struggle to find the deep rooted story that gets someone truly fired up.

Big Vision image

On the surface, there are a ton of cool things going on at Viewzi. Our product manager Jay Horne sums these things up rather nicely as ‘food, folks, and fun’. From Viewzi cafe on Fridays to getting to work with some of the best talent I know, to a really fun work environment and a fun product-- there’s plenty to love. But these aren’t the things that keep a curious, passionate learner around for the long haul. As I mentioned earlier, one of the most critical things a leader can do is to find that ‘story’ that gives everyone a sense of purpose in their role. The “we’re putting a man on the moon” message that gets everyone up in the morning and gives context and meaning to all the exciting and mundane tasks that will be required of you.

For me, I have to have a vision and a passion for the idea. To be clear, I’ve had various stories I’ve been trying out, but these weren’t the deep-rooted motivation I was searching for. It wasn’t until we started looking at the feedback and taking a long hard look at our core message that I finally ‘found’ my story, why I am here. And here’s the ironic part— it’s the same message I’ve been giving for the last 3 years…

“It’s all about experiences”
In 2006, I developed a model for understanding where exactly a product is in its maturity. Think of this as a ‘UX hierarchy of needs,’ with six levels ranging from useful/functional up to meaningful (the highest level a product can achieve). This was my way of resolving a lot of different ideas around what makes up an experience, and the relative priority of those things:

Moving from bottom to top, you have a basic product maturity continuum:

Ideas typically start off as functional solutions to a problem— something useful. Think of the first Motorola cell phone. Sure, it was a brick, but it allowed you to make calls untethered to a fixed spot!

From there, things have to be reliable. This can be reliability of the service (5 9’s uptime?) as well as integrity of the data. If I purchase tickets on a travel site, the ticket prices need to be current and reliable. If I host with a site, I need to know my data is backed up and accessible at all times. This is reliability.

UX Hierarchy Model

Usable & Convenient
It’s not enough to allow me to simply do something— it has to eventually be less awkward to use. This is where the next two levels, usable and convenient, come into play. I draw a distinction between usability and convenience. Both make something easier to use, but in my experience most usability groups focus on fixing known problems— removing the hurdles. A focus on convenience asks “is there a more natural way to make this work?” MapQuest and Google Maps are a great example of this contrast. MapQuest was perfectly usable. But Google Maps, with it’s draggable interface, physics, and other more ‘natural’ behaviors was a much more convenient way to interact with maps data.

Whereas convenience focuses on cognition, the next level— ‘pleasurable’— focuses on affect and emotions. How can we make something emotionally engaging? (And a memorable experience!) This is typically accomplished through things like friendly language, aesthetics, humor, arousing curiosity, creating flow, leveraging game mechanics and other similar tactics.

The highest level is of course ‘meaning. And no, you can’t make something meaningful— that’s a personal area. But you can design for meaning by focusing on the preceding levels as well as shepherding beliefs and the communities surrounding the product or service experience. Also, whereas the other levels build on each other, a product can be meaningful without any of these levels (I have a 1966 Karmann Ghia that doesn’t even run— ‘function’; sheer ownership connects me with a group of people in a way that is meaningful to me).

The big takeaway from this is that if want to truly create a revolutionary product, you have to shift you’re thinking from a ‘bottom-up’ task focus (which will only get you so far) to a focus that starts from the ‘top-down’ with the experience you want people to have. By approaching things from this perspective we see a host of new ideas, not to mention better ways to implement the same ideas that have been around for a while.

But there’s another takeaway: In mature markets, where you have stable, usable products, taking it to the ‘next level’ means focusing on more experiential things like emotions, clever language, aesthetics. This was the topic of my pleasurable interface presentation, where I gathered dozens of examples of these experiential qualities:

But search?
So, all that’s nice. But what about a search engine? Can a utility tool like search offer an improved experience? And I’m not talking about the algorithms or the results themselves. But the experience of interacting with the search results themselves. Can, or should, searching for information be a fun activity?

The problem with search:
Travis has written an excellent and accurate description of Viewzi. I encourage you to read his explanation of what we’re about. But for the purposes of this post (and to understand why I am so excited by what we are doing at Viewzi), here’s a short description of what we are doing…

Viewzi is changing the face of search. Literally. We’re asking the question: Is there more than one way to look at search? Does everyone see things the same way?

With traditional text-based search engines, no matter what or how you search, your results are delivered the same way. Searching for “Bono” looks the same as searching for “chicken recipes” or “sports cars.”

Why do all search results look the same?

We think there are better ways to present information than in a simple list. We start with specific topics or search terms and ask: “Is there a better way to present this data?” The result? Dozens of new, unique ‘views’, or ways to look at information, each custom-tailored for that content. It’s the right data, presented in the right way.

Changing the experience of search
When I first described Viewzi to my friend and mentor Rob Moore, he commented with some enthusiasm “you’re changing the experience of search. Most search folks I know are still focused on how to improve the performance by a few milliseconds. No one has really focused on how people actually interact with the data being returned.” (Or something like that!)

Rob nailed it on the head. We’re changing the experience of search. More specifically, we’re changing the experience of searching for [insert topic of choosing or manner of searching]. Contrary to some of the press that is going around, we are not a visual search engine, not exactly. We do place a premium on aesthetic considerations. However, we’re more about the right data presented in the right way. I like to think of ourselves as a designing custom search results for very specific scenarios. I was excited when Brian Oberkirch asked: ‘what can Stephen Anderson do with hyper-niched search contexts?’ That’s exactly it!

Viewzi. Search, your way.

With Viewzi you can, eventually, experience search results however you prefer. On one end, this could be a crazy digg labs style visualization. On the other end, you could have something very much like Google, but with ‘that one little change’ you’ve always wanted. Think of Viewzi as ‘search results, exactly the way you want, how you want.’
We are really the platform upon which hundreds of ways to view information will eventually reside. We currently have 17 views, with many more planned. Some are “all purpose” search views (different ways to view and interact with general search results) and many more are specific to a niche topic (recipes, music, celebrity photos).

Here is an example of what I mean by scenario-based search views:

Searching for recipes
Here is what you get if you search for ‘chicken recipes’ on most search engines.

Recipe search results from Google and Yahoo

If our goal was simply to create better search results, you’d get little more than some light typographic treatment, or perhaps some subtle information design changes. Hardly the stuff of dreams. But, if you change the question to something based in the experiences people have, in this case ‘how can I make searching for recipes more enjoyable?’, you might end up with something like our current recipe view:

Viewzi Recipe View

I’ll be the first to say, this is one of my favorite search views. It is (for many contexts) a far superior way to search for recipes. But is this the best way to display recipe search results? No. This view supports the offline behavior of flipping through a book to discover an appetizing recipe. But what about the scenario where…

  • someone has 4 ingredients on hand and they want to find a recipe that uses those ingredients
  • someone is focused on finding recipes that fit certain nutritional criteria

The resulting recipe view for these scenarios would be (a) quite different and (b) much less visual, as we would focus more on ingredients than appetizing photos. This is what I mean by search results custom-tailored for specific people, activities and contexts. And from this perspective, you can easily image dozens of different recipes views, many of which we will never think of, which leads me to my final though…

“But wait, there’s more…”
So far, I’ve only described the search views we are creating. But it’s ridiculous to think that a bunch of designers and tech geeks might know everything there is to know about [you name it]. The bigger story is the search platform we are creating, a platform that will allow anyone to create their own search views. For now, it’s an API than anyone with Flash AS3 or JavaScript skills can start using right away. In the future, we’d like to enable anyone to begin creating their own search views. That, is exciting. Whether it’s a better niche view or an entirely different way to experience search results— we’re building the platform that will enable user-generated (viewzer generated?) search views.

Pleasurable Interfaces + Search
And here’s why I am so fired up about Viewzi: everything I was talking about in the upper half of my pyramid— taking usable products and making them more convenient, pleasurable and meaningful— that’s exactly what I’m responsible for at Viewzi. I get to test out these ideas in a maturing field that is ripe for a focus on better experiences. When was the last time you described a search engine as fun? Viewzi is a company who’s business model is precisely that— to make search a pleasurable experience!

Viewzi has been called the

It’s a crude comment, but more than a few people have described Viewzi as the“‘iPhone of search.” If we can do for search what the iPhone did for mobile phones—change how people do what they’ve been doing for a decade—wow. Now that’s something I can believe in!

What about you?

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Wednesday April 9, 2008 / 17 Comments

Why I Am Not A Manager

Confession time: I do not consider my self a good manager. I do however think I am a good director or leader. So what do I see as the difference?

In short, extrinsic vs intrinsic motivation. And providing a clear, actionable, inspiring plan.

Visual contrasting managers with leaders

Managers are great at making sure things get done. Directors are great at making sure we’re getting the right things done-. [UPDATE: As Joe points out, this idea originated with Peter Drucker who said this much more eloquently, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”] And that everyone’s inspired and empowered to make valuable contributions.

Managers are largely focused on the minutiae of day-to-day details: Are you getting done the things assigned to you? Have we communicated with the client? How well are we tracking to the project plan? When are you taking your vacation? Those sorts of things. While I can certainly be anal about my own work, I just don’t care to be that involved in what other people are doing. Isn’t that their responsibility?

What I do care about with regards to other people is whether or not we are clear on our roles and responsibilities. Aligned around a common, shared vision. And motivated— intrinsically motivated and passionate about what we, as a group, are building. Given the right circumstances, I think I’m good at creating this environment.

To be honest, I’ve felt a bit guilty about not being a better manager— I’m not good at crossing my t’s, dotting my i’s, or being able to account for what everyone is working on at any given time. I’m just not wired that way. Fortunately, I’ve been placed in leadership roles where I was somehow able to skip past the traditional managerial duties.

But as a director at various companies, I’ve also discovered something interesting: much of what managers do seems unnecessary when you have the right people on your team. I’ll say that again: much of what managers do is unnecessary when you have the right people. With the right people, self-management takes over for you. I think Jim Collins nails this when he says:

...if you have the right people on the bus, the problem of how to motivate and manage people largely goes away.

When you have the right people on your team, what qualifies as management is really about creating a platform from which everyone can track themselves. That, and figuring out how challenge folks so that they are delivering their best. This assumes a lot of trust and faith in their abilities, and not in your ability to handhold. Beyond that, management, in the traditional MBA sense, has been largely unnecessary in an environment where everyone has a clear raison d’être . Again, I’m talking about a specific kind of information worker. This doesn’t apply to all groups.

I think this quote from Michael Hillenbrand sums it up rather nicely:

Managers do things right; leaders do the right thing. This is the primary difference between a good manager and a good leader. A good manager can accomplish only what has been defined and documented for him or her, yet a good leader constantly questions why things are done the way they are and is able to recognize the value and potential of doing things differently. A good leader is passionate about excellence and must therefore strive for continuous improvements and change. In other words, a good leader knows that insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. [ Source ]

Next up: what qualities do I think makes for a good leader?

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Tuesday January 22, 2008 / 1 Comments

Presenting in Houston at Got Social Media

Have plans for Thursday? If not, you should head to Houston, for a fabulous one day conference dedicated to all things social media. The event? Got Social Media. Tickets are almost sold out, but there are still a few of the 150 seats open.

I'm a Speaker at Got Social Media

Here’s the official description:

Got Social Media is a workshop based conference held annually (starting this year) in Houston, TX. If you currently work in Advertising, PR, Marketing, Technology – or if you own your own business – then the Got Social Media conference is for you.

Bringing together some of the top minds in Social Media, Technology, Design, and Marketing – Got Social Media is a one-day event covering topics like: Social Media for Businesses, Women in Social Media, Social Media Technology Platforms, and more.

I’ll be giving a presentation: “We’re Connected, Now What?” discussing how to turn real-life behaviors into online social features

Here’s my description:

Where do you get inspiration for online social features? One approach is to copy or offer a variation on something someone else has already created. But this approach lacks vision and often results in ‘me-too’ applications. A better approach is to look at real-world social interactions, and then translate these into online social features. And where better to observe these interactions than someplace like the mall, college campus, or conference?

We’ll spend the first half of this presentation looking at some different ways that natural human and social behaviors have guided product development— and ‘filled the well’ with original new feature requests. Then, we’ll apply this approach in a workshop type environment to generate some of our own innovative social media ideas.

To be honest, this is one the most difficult talks I’ve ever had the pleasure (or agony?) to prepare. I think it’s because it’s one of those ‘Well, duh!’ topics that is rather obvious when you say it, yet few people (in my experience) approach work in this manner. In fact, Joshua Porter is one of the only people I’ve come across who regularly writes on this topic. While I’m very excited to be presenting this, I’m also a bit curious about how the topic will come across and be received. We’ll see! I’ll post the slides and resources I came across after the presentation.

Kudos to Erica Ogrady and Kelsey Ruger for pulling this together. If you do register, mention poetpainter or Stephen P. Anderson for $15 off your ticket price.

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Sunday November 4, 2007 / 8 Comments

What’s in Your BookStack?

Quick—what’s in your ‘BookStack’?

If you’re like me, you may have several books you’re reading at once. Or maybe not reading, but referencing and scanning. Either way, these are the books piled up on your desk or beside your bed or [wherever else you stack books]. These are the 5 or 6 books that you are ‘in the middle of’.

So, what’s in your BookStack?

Credit goes to my colleague and coworker Chuck Mallott for phrasing it this way. He has a side project intended to help people share precisely this: what books (plural) are you currently reading? While I think Shelfari beat him to the punch for a lot of his ideas, I think he has an interesting angle with the ‘bookstacks’ concept. So, until his app is built, here’s my current book stack:

BookStack for October 2007
(Top to bottom: Peter and the Starcatchers, Changing the Conversation in Organizations, The Creative Priority, The Intelligence Advantage, Serious Play, The Divine Conspiracy, Geometry and Meaning, The Owner’s Manual for The Brain)

And for grins sake, here’s my book stack from 6 months ago: (the photo was for a presentation)

(Top to bottom: The Laws of Simplicity, The Paradox of Choice, Finite and Infinite Games, Geometry and Meaning, The Story Factor, Design Management, Observing the User Experience)

At the risk of starting a meme, I’m going to ask a few of my friends (and more friends) to share what’s in their stack…

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Friday March 23, 2007 / 3 Comments

Where in the World Is Stephen P. Anderson?

In Las Vegas, at the IA Summit to be precise. While I don’t normally write ‘personal’ posts, I figured a catch up was in order, given my lengthy absence. That, and while poetpainter has been rather dormant lately, plenty of exciting things have been going on behind the scenes, both at home and work.

First off, the newest addition to our family is doing great. He is now almost three months old, beautiful, healthy, and looking more like me than the other boys do, if that’s possible. And yes for those counting, that makes four boys. Four boys and all the fun that goes along with having a big family, which is partly why things have been so quiet here.

A couple weeks ago I made the yearly trek to SxSW Interactive. And thanks to Erica O’Grady, was privileged to participate in a ‘User Experience and Accessibility’ panel at the first ever BarCamp/Refresh World Meetup. I was honored to be speaking alongside Derek Featherstone, John Moore, Bryan Veloso, Chris Bernard, Kelsey Ruger, and Sharron Rush (Knowbility). Kudos to Erica and all the many hardworking individuals who put that together. For those not in attendance, you can watch this 5 minute video on YouTube, with more footage of the actual presentations forthcoming. For those who were in attendance, I made a statement about Usability and Accessibility that was contradicted by the much more knowledgeable Derek and Sharon. However, it turned out we are on the same page. And some inspiring discussions followed after the panel. I’ll share some of that at a later date.

Fellow Sabre co-conspirators Travis and Jeremy posted some shots on Flickr (Jeremy’s photos and Travis’ photos) and with sufficient time, I’ll get my photos up soon…

So, what’s kept me so busy? Apart from the obvious, I’ve spent the last several months working on another little project…

@IA Summit
I’m excited to announce that I will be presenting at the IA Summit 2007, with both a poster presentation as well as a regular 45 minute session. I’ll post about those specific topics in the next few days. For now, here are the descriptions:

Comments are now back on. I had turned these off due to the overwhelming amount of comment spam I was getting. Also, for those of you getting constant updates every time a new comment was added… no more— I put an end to that. I’ve also got a redesign in the works, but like everything else that’ll be much later in the year. Unless someone wants to help me with the CSS and TextPattern setup. Anyone? Anyone?

Okay, I’m loving my job. Aside from the core day to day challenges that make this job rewarding, Sabre offers many ‘perks’ that make this an exciting place to work. In one week we brought in Scott McCloud to speak, hosted DemoCamp Dallas, and watched The Incredibles over lunch. And while not every week offers those kinds of extras, these events are a strong positive comment on the Sabre culture, as well as the influence of some very talented individuals. Speaking of which, we’re hiring. If you’d like to join our small team of highly talented individuals, we’ve got a few openings.

During the normal day to day, I’ve been busy laying down some of the foundations for our group. This includes lots of material around ‘guidelines’, ‘design research’, and other assorted topics, much of which I’ll sharing very soon (as soon as I recover from the last several months!).

And that’s where I’m at!

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Thursday December 21, 2006 / 7 Comments

My Latest 'Project'

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Wednesday September 6, 2006

I'm in Print!

My copy of Dan Brown’s Communicating Design arrived I the mail today! I’ve been excited about this book since I saw the advance notice/promotional postcard at the IA Summit. If you’ve never seen any of the deliverables Dan has produced, check them out – now. Visuals such as his credit card site map or the passover infographic influenced the highly visual deliverables I am so fond of producing.

Anyway, Dan invited me to submit any site map or wireframe artifacts I might have to help round out the remaining chapters. Long story short, I am honored to have some of my work (albeit from 2003!) included in his new book.

If you haven’t heard about Communicating Design, you should certainly check it out. This books fills a niche not explicity covered by any other book—how to create the 10 deliverables/artifacts most commonly used by information architects and user experience groups. I’ve found that ‘seeing’ the documentation other people are producing is in many ways much more useful than another text on methodologies. This is a great book to have at your fingertips.

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Friday September 1, 2006 / 7 Comments

A Time for Change

Today is my last day at Geniant (_formerly Bright Corner_).

A little history:
A little over 5 years ago, four other guys and I founded Bright Corner —a “small, creative and technology services” company. At the time, none of us knew how far this would go, especially as it was August 2001, and the economy was in a tailspin. Given that climate, I still turned down a stable job offer (with an insurance company!) to work with a really talented group of people—a decision I have never regretted.

Our goal then was simple: to work together on exciting projects. And somehow through a lot of hard work, great clients, and many blessings, we were able to channel our passions into something pretty amazing: As of our merger with Geniant on Jan 1, 2006, Bright Corner had matured into a solid company, with more than 30 employees split between Mumbai, India and Dallas, Texas. And since then, this “family” has only grown larger, through recent new hires and new friendships with Geniant colleagues. I feel privileged to have been a part of such an exciting venture, and to have worked with so many talented individuals.

And now…
There’s an appropriate time for every activity. While I wasn’t looking to move on, something about this particular opportunity resonated with me. After many conversations and prayerful consideration, I’ve made what I feel certain is the next right step for me to take.

I’m excited to share that I’ll be joining Sabre Travel Network as Principal User Experience Architect. It is a pretty appealing position that offers many of the same challenges I face at Geniant, while also pushing me to grow in new areas that I’d likely never encounter as a consultant. One of the downsides of consulting is never being able to see things through, at least to the extent you’d like. I’m looking forward to the mythical “phase 2” or “phase 3” becoming a reality.

Beyond the move from outsider to insider though, I’m pretty excited by everything I’ve learned about Sabre. As corporations go, the culture seems fairly entrepreneurial, with innovation being a key part of their history and culture. In particular, I am excited by their agile approach to software development and support for open-source technology. This is the same company that supported Bill Scott and the development of Open Rico.

Topping off all that, Sabre will be investing in my own professional development—presenting at conferences, publishing white papers or magazine articles— things I’ve already been working on personally, as time allows.

While I’ll certainly miss working with my friends at Geniant, everyone I’ve shared the news with is very excited, and would probably be upset to see me not accept this position.

To the Bright Corner family (and extended family): Together, we created a truly T-Shirt worthy company. Something everyone should be proud of. I thank you for the opportunity to be a part of that and for the confidence placed in me over the last five years. It’s been a great ride, and a joy to work with all of you.

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“Engineering, medicine, business, architecture and painting are concerned not with the necessary but with the contingent — not with how things are but with how they might be — in short, with design.”
— Herbert Simon