Getting Nolstalgic Over the Danger Sidekick

Chris DeSalvo recently posted a great article, The future that everyone forgot: Some of the work we did at Danger. The article covers the history of Danger, the company that created the Sidekick. It might seem a bit odd to get nostalgic about a phone that I didn’t own, but that period he writes about was the start of the smartphone revolution. I have always owned a smartphone. I came into the cell phone game a little late in 2003 with a Handspring (before they came back to Palm) Treo 300. At that time, I was very much plugged into the smartphone world. I did a ton of research before making the jump to that little Treo, and can remember looking closely at the Danger Hiptop (which later became the Sidekick). In fact, I can recall reading a magazine article about the new Danger devices in a Barnes and Noble store (I know… a paper magazine in a bricks and mortar bookstore – times have sure changed!). At that same time, I also remember doing a lot of looking at the Kyocera 6035 and the Kyocera 7135 before finally settling on the Treo 300.

The article above brought back a lot of memories of a time when having an always connected device in your pocket was a new thing. Most of the features he writes about had never been done before, or even thought of at the time and are almost an afterthought today. It’s probably harder to find a dumb-phone today than it is to find a smartphone. It was a nice trip down memory lane.

My Smartphone History

My Smartphone History

Goat Simulator

This is a real game, not some joke from The Onion. The premise of the game is exactly what you’d expect. You run around as a goat causing mischief, doing goat things… hilarity ensues.

You can pre-order it at their site. It’s coming to Steam on April 1st (April Fools joke?). I’m very tempted to order.

2013 Holiday Geek Gift Guides

holiday-techoryWell, here we are again approaching another Black Friday and (lamely named) Cyber Monday. That means it’s time again for my list of holiday geek gift guides. This list was conceived many years ago to help with my own gift shopping for friends and family. Because of my interested in technology and gadgets (and general geekery), most of these lists fall into those categories, but there are a few that are useful for general gift giving as well. As usual, I’ll keep this list up to date as I encounter additional lists. If you know of any I may have misted, leave a comment and I’ll get it added.


(Guides from previous years: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004)

DIY: Tailgate Misting Station

We’re a few weeks into football season this year and the first two game were scorchers. Usually games in the beginning of September can be a bit warm, but seemed even more-so this year with temps around 90 degrees. A dinner conversation the week before the first game prompted me to look into creating a tailgate mister to cool us off a bit before and after the game. The mister was pretty easy to put together with about $30-40 worth of parts from the local hardware store.

  • The base of the system is a weed sprayer. Since we don’t have electricity at our tailgating spot, we couldn’t use an electric pump, so a 3 gallon weed sprayer provides the water and pressure for the system. You can probably get a smaller version, but you’ll likely be filling it more regularly. I’d recommend something 3 gallons or larger for the project.
  • I removed the sprayer head/nozzle from the sprayer and used an irrigation connector to hook up the hose. This may vary with each sprayer, so you may need to get some plumbers tape to connect the hose to the end of the sprayer handle.
  • The rest of the mister is built from lawn irrigation parts. I found a Rain Bird kit that had just about everything I needed. My mister only has two sprayer heads on it, but you could easily spread it out with more heads and use a few more parts. I ended up using 1/4″ irrigation tubing. That provided enough pressure for two sprayer heads.
  • I started by connecting one length of tubing to the weed sprayer with a 1/4″ connector piece. From the end of that, I used a T splitter to get two more lines of tubing to come off the main tube. I placed a single Fogger-Mister end  (this was the only piece I had to order that didn’t come in the kit) on each of the tubes coming off the T splitter. The lengths of tube can be adjusted to fit whatever you will hang the mister on. Ours hangs from a tailgating tent pole.
  • It was pretty simple to hook everything together. I filled the sprayer container with distilled water, thinking they wouldn’t clog as fast that way. We even put a little ice into the reservoir as well. We zip-tied the tubing to our tailgating tent, pumped it up and let the cool mist spray. Everything seemed to work pretty well, and we would get about 30 minutes of mist from a single pump-up.

Everything worked pretty well, and I think we’re beyond the warm games now this year, but we’ll definitely be pulling this out for the early season games in years to come.

Google Chromecast

IMG_20130731_184223When Google announced the Chromecast a few weeks back, I got online and ordered one. It was originally going to be a gift, but after playing with it, I decided to hold onto it. At only $35.00, I’m not out much (gift or otherwise). It’s a pretty nice device. It comes in a nice little slide-out package. The Chromecast device has a little slot while the rest of the goodies (power adapter, USB cable, and HDMI extender cable) sit underneath. The dongle (hee hee) has a standard HDMI connector on one end and a micro USB port for power on the rounded back-end. The TV I plugged it into was a bit older, so I did not have a convenient HDMI port on the side and had to use the extender to plug it in because the angle was too sharp on the port for my TV. I also did not have a USB port on this TV, which could power the device, and had to use the included USB power adapter. Everything plugged into my TV looked a little ugly, but I sure took advantage of all the accessories they included. I have a newer TV in the basement that probably wouldn’t need all the extras.

Once everything was plugged in, I switched the TV input to the correct HDMI port and had a nice screen with a URL to continue setup. I used my phone to hit the URL so it redirected me to the Google Play Store to download the Chromecast app. The app will ask you for an ID displayed on the screen to identify itself, and will then walk you through the rest of the setup. This includes providing it access to your WiFi and giving it a name. Once you’ve done those things, you can start streaming media to the TV.

iconThe streaming interface works great. You simply touch a little Chromecast icon and it throws stuff to your TV from apps that support it. Right now (and this is the only negative at the moment), that’s limited to just a few apps. The list currently includes, Google Play Music and Movies, Netflix, YouTube. There are apparently a few others in the works. The thing that makes it irrelevant is that you can also stream a tab straight from the Google Chrome browser (Mac or Windows). If you install the Chromecast extension you can send just about anything else you need to the TV (Hulu, Amazon, whatever). I’m looking forward to more apps that take advantage of the Chromecast, but so far am very happy with it.

The Chromecast is a handy little device.


Some New(ish) Mentos Flavors

I’ve actually had these new flavors sitting around for a few months and haven’t gotten around to posting them until now.

Duo Strawbery-Lime and Lakrits Mint MentosThe first two, Duo and Lakrits Mint were found in the US at a World Market store. The Duo flavor is a strawberry shell with a lime center and works pretty well together. The Lakrits Mint is very similar if not the same as the licorice flavor that I’ve been able to find for quite some time. In fact, I remember finding licorice flavor, called lakrids or drop ladrids back in the 90’s at a Dutch bakery in Pella Iowa. They’re good if you like licorice flavor. It’s kind of a minty licorice, which works well together.

Mojito - Pina Colada MentosThe next flavor I’ve been able to find pretty regularly in the US at grocery stores. It’s not as common as the standard mint and fruit, but I’ve been seeing it more often lately. It’s a half and half roll with one side filled with piñacolada and the other side with mojito. These are both wonderful! I mean, how could it not be good when you cross tropical drinks with the best candy in the world? The mojito is a nice minty lime flavor, which the piñacolada is a creamy pineapple. They both taste like the drink they are named after. It’s a lovely mentos for popping while you’re sitting on the beach.

Frutas Acidas MentosThe last flavor is one I found on a recent trip to Europe. I saw these at a few place, but these were purchased in Barcelona at a little news/candy stand on the street. The flavor is frutas ácidas, and is similar to the sour flavor found in the US. The wrapper is very different and I think (can’t quite remember what was in the US roll) that the actual fruit flavors were a bit different. Either way, it was pretty good.

New Google App Launcher

I just got the new Google “app launcher” on my Google home page. Gone is the standard black navigation bar at the top of the page. It has been replaced by an “apps” button the pops down to reveal an icon for 10 of the popular Google apps. The pop down window isn’t even full. I wonder if they’ll add the ability to add more, or customize what shows up in that window if this catches on.

Google Apps Interface

Breaking the Mold With Meaningful Design

Scott Dadich – Wired Editor
Tony Fadell – CEO, Nest Labs
Hosain Rahman – CEO, Jawbone

Great design has been a trend since the late 90’s – form + function. We’re currently seeing hardware and software really coming together with great design. Devices have become fashion and not just a piece of electronics that you use.

Things used to be all about function and the software or skin was thrown together at the end. The iPod set a standard to do it with great design together.

Great design needs to be stay true to form. It starts with the function and the implementation of that function – being as pure to that function as possible. It’s about subtracting and subtracting to get it down to that core function. Design is architecture itself. Each step of the process is working towards solving that problem… the “why”. Design just isn’t in the product itself, but the packaging, the manual, the unboxing, everything – it is all tied together. It is all about clarity for what you’re doing and why, and making sure everyone knows that.

You can take any product and ask yourself how you would make it better?

You need to be open to all types of data especially when going into a new market and be able to tweak something to get it right, even if it delays a product. It comes down to solving the problem.

Google[X]: Building a Moonshot Factory

Astro Teller

Does your work support crazy or risky “moonshot” ideas? Are you given the freedom to take risks? Many times it takes a war to think big, or risky, or “Moonshot”. Moonshot thinking starts takes a global scale problem, then you have to make some sort of sci-fi proposal to make that problem go away. There has to be some reality in the sci-fi sounding idea so you can convince others that it will actually work. Google supports “Moonshot” ideas. Ideas that are worth doing that would matter to the entire planet.

Why does this matter?
Is thinking like this worth it? It matters because when you try to do something radically hard, you approach the problem differently than when you try to make something incrementally better. If you attack the problem as if it’s solvable even though you don’t know how to solve it, the results will shock you. Perspective shifting is way more than being smart.

Google[X] is like Peter Pan’s with PhD’s. If failure doesn’t happen at least half the time, we’re not shooting high enough. It isn’t about money. If you’re adding huge amounts of value to the world, the money will come later. A “classic business plan” isn’t needed. Just get it out there. When you think about the impact and positivity of the impact you think about and solve problems differently.

Google[X] found a way to determine your location inside on google maps, and spun it into Google Geo.

Google[X] is trying to create an AI that works like a neural network. They’re working on visual identification and language identification and learning.

Homework: What would I work on if I knew ahead of time I wouldn’t fail? Why wouldn’t you start that tomorrow?

“Dream big, and pay the bills along the way.” –Elon Musk
He has bravery and creativity that make him successful. You have to be willing to learn from your failures and move forward. You have to be humble to be audacious. If you’re going slowly enough that you don’t break your prototypes, you’ll never go radically fast.

A moonshot factory isn’t just picking something crazy to go after, it’s moonshot built on moonshot. It goes from who you hire, to how you break stuff. It’s moonshots all the way down.


Why Designers Should Care About Measuring Success

Alfred Lui – Jawbone, Dir. of UX

How do you know this idea is going to work?
This question asks you for proof of the future. This is a fair question because designers love change, but businesses do not. This is a balance between pushing change and avoiding risk in business.

Strategy is to determine what to make over a short time and over a long time.

This is a common issue – the balance between disruptive ideas and a business’s idea that they need to mitigate risk/change and save money.

“The innovator’s Dilemma”
“The Design of Business”
“The Lean Startup”

Our Dilemma:
Incredibly hard to prove the future

Breadcrumb of Proof
Idea -> Storytelling -> Solution
Desirable -> Feasible -> Viable (all of these need to overlap)

How does this all come together?

  • Look beyond the brief and ask for the whole picture. The brief describes what is missing, not the hole picture. What is the problem that this solves, and what does success look like?
  • Agree on the measurements early and expect new ones to come in. Always keep an eye out for new ways to measure success.
  • Test frequently, but mind your methods. A design that is usable doesn’t always mean it is new, especially if it is meant to change human behavior.

Why does this service exist?
What does success look like to you?
Are we optimizing for an existing behavior or creating a new one?

This is not about losing our intuition, or about designing by numbers. It just means that intuition is not the only quality that creates good work. It is about having an expanded responsibility.

Building a Better UX Resume

Mike Dunn, UX Designer, Game Journalist, Animator

The average recruiter spends about 6 seconds on your resume and everything typically looks the same (MS Word template with Times New Roman). How do you make your resume stand out? You want your resume to tell a story about yourself. Many people short-change their resume and don’t tell a story with it.

  • Define your audience
    What kinds of recruiters are going to be looking at your resume. Some will be people who don’t have any expertise in the area they are recruiting for. Then there are specialist recruiters – these are the ones who know exactly what you do. There are also hiring managers who have very little time for your resume.
  • Identify the problems
    Look at your existing resume and find the problems and how it communicates your skills.
  • Research what other people are doing
    Look at personas – a UX doc that describes a type of person as an individual person and gives key information about that person. Look around the web for interesting (strange weird unusual) resumes. An interesting one used infographics.
  • Design and Iterate
    For skills, a chart was created for UX, Web, Creative showing skill level and expertise. It communicates more than just a bullet list. For work experience, a timeline was created showing the mix of professional and self-employment work. These two elements were slotted in with a new profile and contact information. Goals and Motivators were added – it explains where you want to go. It also included a brief quote summing up the philosophy of the work. This became a two-sided piece with recommendations added to the back.
  • Test it!
    How many offers/interviews do you get? The resume was definitely a conversation starter and was generally positive. There was some negative feedback from the timeline.

It’s important to know your audience. The creative resume doesn’t work for everyone. There will be some instances where you’ll still need your typical word doc version.

Drawing Conclusions: Why Everyone Should Draw

Drawing ConclusionsVon Glitschka

Drawing Defined: doodling, sketching – it doesn’t have to be complicated.

Drawing is appropriate creatively because it touched on so many things. Don’t say, “I can’t draw worth crap.” It’s easy to come up with an excuse not to do something. Set those excuses aside. It can fill the gap when the spoken word falls short.

There is a massive history of drawing. From cave drawings to Jesus to Egypt to large land drawings only seen from the air. Monks would even draw in the margins of their work. Comic books have inspired lifetimes of drawers from the 30’s. Commercial art has been around for over 100 years.

Computers have moved things to the “drawing downgrade” and has become a bit of a crutch for drawing. Saul Bass was interviewed in the 90’s and stated that if you don’t know how to draw you are in deep trouble. You gotta be a one man band to start and know the nature of that process. You need all the tools available to think. One of those tools is drawing. “Design is thinking made visual.”

Drawing enhances the narrative and can communicate powerfully.

Drawing today has moved towards a tool-driven process (photoshop or software). Don’t be a “tooler”. Software is just a tool. You need to have a balance between analog and digital skills. Exercise your drawing muscles. Sometime it is difficult because of time or deadlines.

Doodles to capture ideas and lock in it’s essence. You can then move forward to refine it. It doesn’t take much but is an easy way to get things out. It allows you to explore ideas quickly.

Images and pictures have better effect and can communicate 6x more effectively than non-visual communications. 75% of your brain sensory processing is dedicated to visual information.

Drawing improves your thinking – doodling in a meeting helps you to remember things better. Drawing enhances learning.

There is no secret to it. Just do it and you will improve. Enjoy the struggle, it won’t be easy at first. For the next 21 days, make drawing a creative habit. Focus on something you like to draw.


About WYSIWYS: What You See is What You Spec’d

Dave Rupert
Dan Gardner
Alax Breuer

The biggest challenge of responsive design is decision making.

  • Purpose
    What are you trying to accomplish (publishing, commerce, marketing)? The content determines the design.
  • Platform
    How does this responsive site exist with other products on the same devices? Is it replicated or differentiated from a native application? How does it adaptively serve up images based on the view? What is the technology (CMS?)? What is the content, and what is needed on what device? For functionality, where can value be added? It can almost be more app-like. It isn’t page design it is interactive design.
  • Prioritization
    How you prioritize is a big challenge. Think big (full page templates) but also be thinking about the micro elements (icons buttons). I isn’t mobile first, it is ALL platforms at once (more, but simple). Where to you place your breakpoints or midpoints?
  • Process
    How is the site used? Using the system is as important as the system itself. You need to look at everything (org structure, resources, CMS access, etc.). Best practices: team composition, argue early and often, prototype early and often, tools.

The Times of London
The reading experience has changed. Even the web isn’t a great experience, but then the iPad showed up so The Times developed a way to read it there. Then Android tablets showed up and made it more complex (sizes resolutions formats… fragmentation). They created a web view that would work on all tablet platforms.

Responsive Deliverables
What are our goals for a responsive design? Modules is the new way for developing sites. Little bundles of HTML and JS get pulled together to make a full website. This is done to isolate things in the design. SMACSS by Snook. We aren’t creating websites, we are creating systems.