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.

Copyright & Disruptive Technologies

Wendy Seltzer
Andrew Bridges
Derek Khanna
Margot Kaminski
Ben Huh

Incumbent technologies do not want to give ways to new tech.

Andrew Bridges
Copyright is now on the radar in some of the most powerful/rich people in the US. The new 6 strikes law goes a little far. Example: If you don’t pay a toll 6 times, you don’t have access to the road any more. Things have moved from civil to criminal, so there are no protections for people pulled down if it is incorrect.

Ben Huh
DMCA provides safe-harbor provision for content sites. Self-protection created this law, not foresight. The internet is about expression, and we don’t know what the future of expression is going to be because it doesn’t exist yet. Intellectual Property is NOT property. Things exist for the public good.

Wendy Seltzer
Copyright is the “engine of free expression”. Copyright is a negotiated exclusion – who is invited to the table to make the laws? Typically the incumbents who already have copyrights. In 1998, the DMCA the entertainment industry and internet service providers negotiated that law.

Derek Khanna
The copyright institution was created to provide a content monopoly. Cell phone unlocking is now a federal crime (after the DMCA removed that provision this year). You can get 5 years in prison and half a million dollar fine. A petition received 140,000 signatures which got legislation turned around. Next Step: DMCA was written in a way to make certain technologies illegal going forward. It makes assistive technology for the blind and deaf illegal.

Margot Kaminski
Existing copyright law used to go after individual users through on certain platforms (napster, kazaa, gorkster). There has a been a shift to move the cost of copyright enforcement from individual companies to tax payers. NET Act of 1997 and PRO-IP Act of 2008. New measures going forward: ACTA, TPP. TAFTA (and we don’t know what is is these trade agreements).

How do you pick an issue Derek? It is about small victories – disentangling the myth with actual on-the-ground issues.

How does copyright overlap with 1st amendment issues? The courts have thrown it back to congress as long as it doesn’t touch freedom of expression.


Mythbusting: Engineering a Viral Video

Eduardo Toben
Bettina Hein
Kevin Doohan
Rob Ciampa

A viral video is a video that becomes popular through the process of internet sharing… duh. Why should a marketer care? Awareness and Views.

Many times good content that works is the most important part (Build Direct Laminate Flooring).

Real virality is often smaller than you’d think.

  • Make relevant content
  • Lobby tastemakers and find passionate enthusiasts – seeding: getting your video seen by the right people.
  • Build Subscribership
  • Encourage participation
  • Use cross-pollination of email, FB, Twitter, Pinterest, G+

Views can be purchased – $800 for 1 million robots views. If you get caught, Google will cut your access. Incentivized views – people paid to watch your videos.

How do you do it then?
Look at the industry and figure out how many people are actually watching videos? How long are the videos in that space? What is your target audience actually watching – how can you expand on what your audience wants to see? What videos are out there now? Are those videos the same type of things you want to put out there?

Once you’ve looked at this, clone the metadata – titles, tags, descriptions, target links, annotations. Track how you are doing in YouTube search. Put it together in a very analytical way.

How do you do paid views correctly? Choose YouTube ad placement carefully. There is no need to stick to 30sec spots for your preroll.

It includes luck as well, but you need to be ready for it.


  • Audience
    Know who is watching your channel
  • Point of View (perspective)
  • Partner
    Maximize awareness and views on social, affiliate networks, pr/earned media. The foundation is a good piece of content.

Video and YouTube was very hard to sell to a bank (they couldn’t even access YouTube in the bank). They had to convince the bank that they needed to tell a story.
Baby Does Her Grocery Shopping
This video was found and wrapped with the message for the bank.

The Future of Video; The Post-YouTube Apocalypse

Courtney Holt
Danny Zappin
Maker Studios

Maker was founded by a group who wanted to stop pitching to traditional studios and just make stuff – so they started to put video up on YouTube (prior to Google’s purchase). This group came together with similar interests and built this studio together and reinvested in the group to create some sort of infrastructure.

It is more interesting to build up YouTube shows and have/own than vs. getting it on TV or into traditional media. You don’t have to wait for the Hollywood system to tell them it’s ok to make something. They can do anything they want.

Maker isn’t just a production company, but a full media company as well. There is merchandise and other things that the company fills.

What did YouTube (and technology) enable that didn’t exist before? The platform (YouTube) finally enabled people to watch video in an easy universal way. It really helped it to spread, and there was a community there and it provided instant feedback. Technology in filmmaking became cheaper and easier to use. It allows many more people to participate in content creation.

How do you make money on YouTube? Advertisements – Google revenue share goes to the creators. There are ad deals as well. It’s a tough balance with certain brands who micromanage and are very particular about the content.

Because this type of thing is so new, there isn’t a business plan, or a model to follow for Maker Studios.
What is the roll of the fans? They keep you authentic and call out the BS. They give ideas and in many ways direct what happens with videos. It’s an intimate relationship with the fans. The audience also helps to get other work in movies or TV. There is an audience that will come with them for other projects. The YouTube videos help to stem other projects.

Beyond Squishy: The Principles of Adaptive Design

Brad Frost – Brad Frost Web

Generic Trademarks (Kleenex, Corn Flakes) on the web are AJAX & HTML this lead the way for responsive web design, which includes fluid grids, flexible media and media queries.

Adaptive web design is a larger container for responsive web design. It just happens to be the term that caught on.

Principles of Adaptive Design
Ubiquity – The web is not just a computer any more, it includes many many more ways to access now. What will it be in the future? Cars? Refrigerators? Watches? Printers? TV’s We have to reach a LOT of devices. “This isn’t a bug, but an opportunity.” Adaptive isn’t just “web light”. Mobile users should be able to access everything their counterparts on a full browser can. Just give people what they want regardless of how they access.

Content Parity – Does content parity trump all? The typical “mobile context” is on the go – quick access. There is on the go, but it doesn’t include everything. Just make quality relevant content accessible on whatever platform it’s being viewed on.

Ubiquity – Your design needs to work across the entire design continuum, not just certain browser sizes, or phone sizes.

Performance – 70% of mobile users expect their site to open as fast or faster than regular browsers. If your site doesn’t load in 5 seconds, they’re gone. Performance is invisible, so it’s a hard thing to root out. It lives underneath and it’s hard to measure. Performance should be a design feature. will help test mobile performance.

Enhancement – Responsive design is NOT one size fits all. Don’t go mobile last, but go mobile first and then grow. Build the experience up from mobile. It’s not about building for the lowest common denominator but starting and building up from there. Be careful with a single (javascript) point of failure. Don’t over-engineer things… simple is better. There is a difference between support and optimization (you can’t test on absolutely everything out there).

Future Friendly – Things are going to change. There is no such thing as future proof. Just be future friendly. People have a low tolerance for BS. Focus before your customers do it for you. People will find ways around a bad experience (Instapaper, Flipboard, ad-blocker). On the web, the more backward compatible you are the more forward compatible you’re likely to be.

How to

  • Get to the meat – don’t waste time on huge headers.
  • Navigation: It should be like a good friend – there when you need it, but out of the way other time. A menu button to get nav out of the way is good
  • Search Form: Prioritize search to provide a way to get around.
  • Product Info: put it up front and get people to it.
  • Carousels: Make sure you actually need one. Cycle through like items, make sure things are related and make sense.
  • Product Form: make sure the phone pulls up the right keyboard
  • Share Buttons: They are big (a lot to load)
  • Find Nearby: It is geared to a mobile user, so may not be necessary for desktop users.
  • Auxiliary Content: Make sure content is prioritized and bring in content when needed.

Scanability & Performance
We are always scrolling through a single content type. Don’t make your users scroll through EVERYTHING. Collapse content so it isn’t everything and the kitchen sink.

This stuff is hard. It is always changing, but we need to do it. We need to be aware of landscape.
“If you’re finished changing, you’re finished” – Ben Franklin

Brainstorming: Technology First

Will Turnage – R/GA

This talk demonstrated a new technique in brainstorming that Will created over time for use at R/GA to help create a more productive brainstorming. This technique is based on his observations of traditional brainstorming and where it falls short. The technique, like any process or technique may or may not work in all situations and should be adapted for your use. I think many times the structures of these get in the way of actual results, but this one seemed to produce results for their organization and looked like it could produce results elsewhere if done correctly.

The actual technique is described in full in the slidedeck that Will produced.

Open Web Platform: Hopes and Fears

Tim Berners-Lee

Tim Berners-Lee

Tim Berners-Lee – World Wide Web Consortium

He talked about the history of programming languages, object oriented languages and the creation of a general (not specific to a particular platform) language. C -> Java -> HTML. The web works because HTML didn’t tell you what you could use on top of it. We are to a point where javascript can do many things now. HTML was designed to be completely declarative. It can be ready by many different things and many different devices. If you’re going to transmit something, use the least powerful language you can. Simplicity makes it difficult for something to be attacked. There isn’t a need to do additional things (jpg viewer doesn’t need to run additional code).

What is Tim Berners-Lee’s job?
To get people to use open standards. Javascript is a nice language to work in tandem with HTML5. It allows you to connect to hooks in certain platforms – API’s are available in Javascript to connect to mobile devices. You do need to be careful when writing HTML5, there are still platforms that don’t completely support it. The dream is still to write once and run everywhere, and HTML gets close. HTML5 is everywhere. Soon pixels will be cheaper than paper and printing.

Open Web Platform Docs

When TCP/IP was developed they completely ignored how it was going to be used. You throw something down the pipe, and it comes back in the same order. It wasn’t designed for anything specific. When you build something big and powerful it’s not what you can do, it’s what people can do with your stuff.

HTML used to fit on one sheet of paper, and has grown significantly. It is a platform of interconnected knowledge. It was quasi-static. Now with Javascript, webpages are dynamic. There are now competing stacks of Javascript out there. Now, each document is a programmable thing – almost a computer in itself.

Teach kids that a computer isn’t just box, but it’s anything you can make it. It just doesn’t run programs, but it’s something you can make do anything. Don’t just teach kids to use MS Word, but tech them computer science and tell them that the “box” can do anything you make it do.

Platforms are build so that they can work with peers. Things need to be modular so that others can build on top of it.

Will a packet be delivered? Are providers doing inspection of these packets and not delivering them? The data being carried in these packets can be stored and saved so they know what you’re looking at for various reasons. Spying and blocking and disconnecting shouldn’t be able to be done by anyone (companies or government). Our democracy relies on the internet being open. Build systems that are open and neutral.