A View of the World
12 March 2007
  Death of the Desktop
This presentation focused on the idea that interface design needs to consider the science of cognetics (the ergonomics of the mind) to more adequately create experiences that are beneficial to a user. Two scientific studies were noted: GOM modeling and Information efficiency. The presented gave this definition of an interface: the way you accomplish with a product - what you do and how it responds to you. To a user the interface is the product, so the experience is dependent upon how successful the user is in achieving a goal. (Observation: When an interface is simple, you don't notice it.)

The presenter gave this definition of What An Interface Does:
A number of examples were given, and some questions were asked to try and poke a hole into this definition, but most were satisfied that these four are fundamentally correct.

The presenter than presented Raskin's Rules of Interfaces: (with apologies to I. Asimov)
  1. An interface shall not harm your content or through inaction to allow your content to come to harm
  2. An interface shall not waste your time or require you to do more work than necessary
  3. An interface shall not allow itself to get into a state when it cannot manipulate content
(The irony of this presentation was that it was given on a Windows computer, which (IMHO) breaks every one of these rules.)

For more information, visit http://www.humanized.com/weblog/

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  Virtual Teams
This presentation was led by the principles of ariesnet.com. They started as a web development firm in 1997, and had the cool downtown office, games, meals etc. for their 25 employees. In 2001 (Web 1.0 bust) they made the decision to go to the virtual business/team model. They gave an interesting definition of this: Working across time and space connected by technology and networks.

While listening, I was able to identify with each and every part of their presentation: Strengths, Weaknesses, Tools, Best Practices and Challenges. What I learned is that there are at least 2 other tools/approaches out there for what our company currently uses in its operations and management of projects. The best part of the presentation was this statement: "Knowledge workers, like designers, writers, and developers, are best suited for a virtual team, but they are harder to manage and develop in this model."

That is the biggest challenge of all.

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  AJAX on Rails
This presentation was moved from the 3rd floor of the Convention Center to a larger room on the main (4th floor.) Because of this I missed the first part of the session. It was fairly technical in nature, with code snippets on the screen, but these were interspersed with the actual application, so it was easier to understand.

AJAX, or Asynchronous JavaScript is what is driving the application-like development in web sites and other browser-delivered content. Google maps made this famous. Ruby on Rails is an object-oriented programming language that allows for agile (or pick your term) development. This presentation was about integrating AJAX into Rails development, and how it evolved during the process. The key for the success of this approach is that new browsers (IE 6 and 7, Safari, FireFox 2) are designed for greater javascript activity. However, browsers still get overloaded, so any AJAX development needs to balance server and client-side processing to keep the interaction fluid to the user, while not loading the browser to the point of failure.

AJAX is the current future for increased interactivity on web sites. Rails is a development tool that makes it easier to implement this interactivity. It’s time to get more involved in this technology.

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  From Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 – Getting Unstuck
This was a promising topic - so promising that it was booked in the largest room. Lots of people attended. But it turned out to be yet another panel discussion by designers to talk about their challenges in the development process. Once this was discovered by the attendees, the crowd started to thin, but since it was one of the first panels of the day, there were enough people who came in late to maintain a balance. I was one of the people who exited early, but not before hearing this quote by a Swedish creative director, quoting one of the Sex Pistols: "It’s better to be a flamboyant failure, than a mediocre success."

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  AJAX or Flash : Which is Right for You?
This presentation was given by the head of a start-up call SlideShare (www.slideshare.net). In developing this online service, the development team ended up using both tools for what they do best. His presentation is available on his site: http://www.slideshare.net/jboutelle/ajax-vs-flash-whats-right-for-you/

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  Designing for a Global Audience
The focus on this panel was on understanding how creating sites for multiple cultures impact web design. The first topic was localization. Most people think of this as getting the text translated, but it is much more. The process should include thinking through the experience from a specific point of view, and then make the appropriate changes. An example of doing this correctly was Nokia cell phones, which have the interface for cell phones aligned to specific countries, both in language and in presentation.

For marketing, having standards are important, but may not meet or align with cultural expectations. The Honda Civic is a 'starter' car in the US, but is an upscale car in India - how do you market that across cultures in both countries? The question to be asked when starting a project is, what is the user expectation per culture we will be entering? Take a look at each separately, and then identify the common elements and determine the important differences and design appropriately.

When creating for a global audience, it is strongly recommended to have a design team that is local to the culture you are marketing to, including researches and writers. However, you need to establish a communication plan that all teams need to follow, addressing the global objectives . This is what all work will be reviewed against to keep each team in alignment with the project goal.

Finally, the question to answer when working across cultures is: Do you care about the audience/culture which you are designing for? The answer to this will be seen in the final product.

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11 March 2007
  10 Ways to Run a Startup Like Ghengis Khan
This interesting presentation was buy a guy who has started and sold a number of web companies. His presentation mostly displayed photos of life in middle asia (he must of written off a vacation with this speech;-)

Here are the 10 points he presented:
(I'll fill them in later)
  1. Be Nomadic
  2. Expose Yourself to Harsh Conditions
  3. Loot Efficiently
  4. Say No to Infantry
  5. Get People Talking
  6. Do Not Fight By the Enemies Rules
  7. Appropriate the Best People and Skills for Your Machine
  8. Build Bridges
  9. Inspire Fierce Loyalty
  10. Remember the Lesson of the Many Headed Snake
This was the best use of a metaphor for a presentation I've heard in a while.

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  Design Workflows at Work
This panel was advertised as "how great designers work their magic." What it really was is an excuse for 4 designers to talk about what they have in common. This was mainly the following:
The biggest insight was that web designers today are not only aware of HTML and CSS coding issues, most of them are actually doing the coding themselves.

Software mentioned by some of the panelists in running their design shops:

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  SXSW: Using RSS for Marketing
This panel discussion was on the use of RSS (Real Simple Syndication) technology for marketing. The conversation tried to move away from the technology to the application, but it was never more than a balance between the two. The benefits of RSS noted by the panel in selling the use of this are in the speed of delivery, wide distribution potential and efficiency in communication. The big challenge is in getting people to understand the subscription model. One of the presenters noted that for most people, online communication started with email, then moved to seraching the Internet. Learning to subscribe is taking time, but will reach the same saturation point as the other two.

RSS is about content. Your either publish it or you subscribe to it. As a publisher you need to create a strategy for your feed: what will the content be, how often will you pubish, who will likely want it, and how will you benefit from people subscribing. As a subscriber you need to determine what content is on the Internet, how you can use it to your advantage, which of your visitors will want it, and how you will benefit from people accessing it on your site.

Links to RSS/Feed services and information:

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Insights from Randy Lawrence, aka randelaw

Location: Illinois, United States
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