Posts Tagged ‘people’

Your users are mental

January 25, 2010

[imageIn writing Designing Social, Erin and I wanted to include as many voices as possible and represent a wide variety of perspectives. We did this by stealing coopting curating many patterns and tropes already unearthed and documented by smart web people over the past decade and we also invited a large roster of brilliant web folk to contribute essays.

Bit by bit we are making sure all the essays are available online, either hosted on their authors’ blogs or personal websites or in some cases included in the project’s wiki.

Recently, my colleague Tom Hughes-Croucher reprinted his essay on your users’ mental models on his blog, and I think it’s worth reading even if you aren’t designing or developing (yet) in a social context. I love his first line: “One of the things I like about computers is their ability to create magic,” and – to me – the nut graf is here:

The Web is probably one of the least benign environments for a user on their computer and yet it is arguably the most successful computing platform. Using the Web there are numerous contextual or circumstantial errors than can occur, however the majority of users have no mental model with which to understand and recover from them.

…but “read the whole thing” as we used to say on the blogterwebs.

(image courtesy of Mary Harrsch)

Smile! You're on candid skitch

September 26, 2009

Not a manga or mad man among them.

gee and i've only met barlow once

January 3, 2009



gee and i’ve only met barlow once

Originally uploaded by xian

was JP Barlow idly doing the comparisons today, or is this more like secret-admirer spam?

Open Hackday 08 begins

September 12, 2008



hackday stage

Originally uploaded by xian.

I’m going to name the robots Foo and Bar. We still haven’t announced the musical act that will be performing on this stage tonight.

So far I’ve heard Cody Simms and Neal Sample (Cody and Neal, hmmm….) give a great overview of YOS (with great visuals by Micah Laaker), and am now listening to Allen Rabinovich explain how to hack with Flash and Flex.

At 2pm I’ll be talking about patterns and stencils and how they can help coders build better interfaces.

Community site responds to homicide epidemic in Oakland

December 13, 2007


I just heard today about Not Just A Number, a community journalism project coproduced by the Oakland Tribune and InsideBayArea.com.
It endeavors to tell the real human stories of Oakland homicide victims, rather than letting them become merely statistics.
The site speaks for itself, and I feel like I might be cheapening it by talking about how it works technically (there are maps that show murder sites that lead to multimedia testimonials about the victims, and so on, but how it works isn’t really the point).
It just seems like the right sort of response (among many) to one of the worst crises in my adopted home town. It’s not like it solves the problem, of course, but it feels like a way to keep the humanity in the picture. I wonder if a similar approach could be applied to other, possibly more positive, community needs?

Matt Leacock's Pandemic game poised to infect the world

October 31, 2007

[Not final image of the Pandemic board]
I have always loved games, though I find I have less time for them as I get older. When I was younger it was board games and card games. Later role playing games and video games. I used to change five dollars into quarters and squander it all on Major Havoc and Robotron and Pole Position.
In my work and in my attention to online and offline experiences I find that qualities of play can make all the difference between drudgery and delight. I’ve often theorized that Flickr is so successful because it feels more like a game than an asset-management system (and of course Ludicorp made Game Never Ending and built the first rev of Flickr on the GNE engine). Think about it. Given the choice, would you rather “work” or “play”?
At the retreat from which I just returned I had the opportunity to meet and talk to several game designers (Nicole Lazzaro, Bill Dunn, and Jon Blossom), which was enlightening in numerous ways. My old buddy Jeff Green is still editor in chief of Games for Windows (possibly the best job EVAR in that he and his staff are required to play games on the clock). And my colleague Matt Leacock, principal interaction designer for Yahoo’s community platform, has a new boardgame, Pandemic, coming out in November. Is the world trying to tell me something?
I think I need to pay attention to this. Game interfaces (or “PX” as Nicole calls it, to encompass the whole idea of the play experience) are light years ahead of productivity application interfaces and I think those of us working in the more staid spaces would do well to learn from the innovations coming from games. I’ve been mouthing an idea along these lines for years (along with other commonplaces, such as “learn from the children”) but so far I’ve failed to really dig in.
I asked Matt a few questions about his upcoming game:

wake up!: How long have you been designing board games?

Matt Leacock: I’ve been designing board games since I was a kid. When I was nine or ten I designed the first game I can recall named “The Sensation of Boxation.” It was a simple roll-and-move affair where the players were represented by corrugated boxes in an assembly line trying to make their way to a shopping cart. Many of my early games were drawn on the back of other board games that I found lacking. I recall playing games with my uncle and saying, “Is that all there is to this game? I’m sure we could do better.”

Do you design other kinds of games as well?

I focus on board and card games for two reasons: I’m able to handle all of the production tasks and I enjoy the social interaction that results in a good board game. As I experiment with cooperative designs though, I’ve been tempted to work on some computer-moderated designs to lighten up the bookkeeping that players need to do.

What are some of your favorite games?

My favorite game is Tigris and Euphrates by Reiner Knizia because it offers so many interesting tactical and strategic decisions with a fairly straightforward set of rules.

Your influences?

As for influences, I played Tactics, Acquire, and Civilization with my dad and uncle as a kid, roleplaying games in high school, then watched a new world of games open up to me as Mayfair and Rio Grande started importing German board games like Settlers of Catan. I favor games that play in 45-75 minutes, have a lot of player interaction, offer the ability to play intuitively, and provide the means for players to catch up from behind. Many of the “Euro” games offer this mix.

Where did you get the idea for Pandemic?

Hard to say. I wanted to try my hand at a cooperative game and was also interested in a game where chain reactions could occur—where things could rapidly get out of hand. The central mechanism came to me more or less by accident as I was experimenting with a set of cards while working on the first prototype.

How long did it take to design the game?

I started working on Pandemic in January of 2004 and signed off on the final rules in October 2007. I put together a quick-and-dirty paper prototype in about 30 minutes with a couple of sharpies, a standard deck of cards, some wooden cubes, and a few pawns. Unlike many games I’ve worked on, Pandemic showed promise right from the start – I could feel tension in it right away.

What was the process like?

For this design, I wrote down my objectives early which helped keep me focused. The process I used relied on many iterations. In each trial, I’d jot down a rule set and either try it out myself or present it to a group of playtestsers. After playing a game, I’d keep rules that helped make the game more engaging and do what I could to remove any rules that sounded interesting—at the time—but didn’t match up to the core objectives. I also sat out a lot of games and closely observed players to note what behaviors they exhibited during each game. Where did they get confused? Ask questions? Check the rules? I did my best to file off all the sharp, confusing edges by redesigning the game to fit players’ mental models wherever I could.

The two biggest hurdles are finding a novel mechanism that is fun and fine tuning the design for balance and learn-ability. For this game, the mechanism came right away and the bulk of the work was tuning. I’ve been trying to get more methodical about the second part of the process (tuning a balanced, learnable design) because I can get much better results in fewer trials if I’m actively listening and taking notes. I still haven’t found a process for repeatedly discovering fun and novel games, however. I suspect it has a lot to do with loads of fearless experimentation.

Have you got some other game ideas in the works?

I’m currently working on an cooperative game that could be used for training or team building in corporations.

You can pre-order Pandemic now at Funagain Games. Just $23.95! Fun for the whole family!

Ambient info edu revolution

October 13, 2007

Michael Wesch, who created the virally popular internet video called Web 2.0: The Machine is Us/ing Us (its success drew on a sort of meta-application of the very concepts it discussed), was the keynote speaker at IDEA 2007 last week. As part of his keynote, he previewed two videos he has now released to the web.
The first, Information R/evolution, examines the challenges we all face in this age of information glut and shortening attention spans:

The second, made collaboratively by one of his classes (Wesch is a professor of anthropology at Kansas State University, where he is launching a Digital Ethnography working group to “examine the impacts of digital technology on human interaction”), looks carefully at how we are teaching today and how out of sync it has become with the lives of contemporary students:

In some ways, for me, the highlight of the conference was Wesch’s story about how he frightened himself one night in the communal sleeping quarters in New Guineau when he thought his own arm, which had fallen asleep, was a snake lying across his body. This story became the kernel of Wesch’s reputation with the people he was studying and living among, and helped him realize that telling stories is a big part of how we gain identities and fit ourselves (and others) into society.

RE: Join my network on LinkedIn

September 30, 2007

'LinkedIn: Invitations Received' screen snap
This is a quandary for me. I try to keep my LinkedIn network literally to people I know and have worked with or with whose work I am familiar. From what I can see, you seem like an excellent person to know, I’m flattered that you enjoy my posts on that list, and I appreciate your providing that context since so many invitations I get have robogreetings on them.
I couldn’t bring myself to click the “I don’t know Jack…” button, but since I take LinkedIn literally (I want to be able to recommend people from my own direct experience) I also don’t feel right accepting your invitation.
I hope you understand.

Sisters are doing it for themselves

September 20, 2007

At BarCamp Block I first heard about plans for She’s Geeky, a tech (un)conference for women by women. Immediately, I was intrigued. It sounds like a great idea, I love the title, and the organizers are some of the coolest folk I’ve met on the geek circuit.
One of the prime movers is Kaliya Identity Woman Hamlin, a strong advocate of the OpenSpace unconference model for events.
She’s Geeky takes place October 22 and 23 in Mountain View, CA (near Palo Alto). Here’s a description In their own words:
> This event is designed to bring together women from a range of technology-focused disciplines who self identify as geeky. Our goal is to support skill exchange and learning between women working in diverse fields and to create a space for networking and to talk about issues faced by women in technology.
Kaliya goes into some more detail about here “motivations and hopes” on her IdentityWoman blog, and addresses any concerns folks might have about exclusivity (which is a good thing, because even in this male-dominated tech world, I sometimes get that twinge of entitlement when something is for me, about me, catering to me and my ilk, etc.), saying, “My motivation is not to create an event that is ‘exclusive’ but to help create a space for women who some times are very isolated in different niches of the tech world. One women I spoke with yesterday recently found herself being one of only 12 women at a tech conference of 600.”
I have no doubt that She’s Geeky will be a watershed event and I look forward to reading about it and studying its impact.

BarCamp virgin here – be gentle

August 17, 2007

camplogo.jpg
Two years after the first BarCamp (an ad hoc unconference formed initially in response to O’Reilly’s Foo Camp, I’m finally planning to make it to one, this weekend’s BarCampBlock, headquartered at SocialText’s offices in Palo Alto.
According to what I just jotted on the Sessions page on the wiki, I’ve just volunteered to lead or participate in discussions about portable social networks, identity, design patterns, particularly social-media related design patterns, and the gift economy.
I don’t know if I’m qualified to talk about all of those things but when has that ever stopped me before?
Since the moment that Liz Henry and Tara Hunt tipped me off to this event, I’ve had the feeling that this was an important one not to miss. So soon after my wedding and honeymoon and with a rapidly filling-up fall conference schedule, I could have been tempted to let this one slide by, but I have a strong intuition that many of the people I consider friends, heroes, and inspirations will be there and that I’d be kicking myself if I let another Bay Area BarCamp go by without joining in on the fun.
I’ll blog from there if I can find the time between no-spectatorin’ and schmoozin’ and gettin’ things done.