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Archive for October, 2007

Apple fanboys are PodHeads

I just made that term up (or so I thought… take the quiz), but it seems true. Apple is as addictive as crack. I have some serious podHeads as friends, but that’s okay. I am an enabler. đŸ™‚

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What if Big Company Technology groups gave Product Managers options like fast food?

Here’s the generalized analogy…
If a major fast food chain can be run for many years with the ability do the following:

  1. Know what they do well. If your main competency is Burritos, Tacos, Ruby, or .NET you admit you need training or an outsourced company to build a handglider.
  2. Know what the REAL menu items are. “Products” are just a remix of ingredients (like meat, beans, tortilla or bun type, cheese, vegetable options, types of APIs, web services, etc.) and delivery method (here, togo, wrapped, in a shell, web, mobile, kiosk, software)
  3. Acknowledge the quality of ingredients and refuse to serve it raw just to get it out faster. That’s obvious.
  4. Have a concept store to test new products that push boundaries of their menu. I wish developers wouldn’t wait until business or Marketing dreams up something big. Test out the stuff that Technology can do.. regardless of whether it makes sense initially. A smart Marketer can see values and spin features. That’s what they are good at.. mixing up opportunities — not prioritizing Technical work!
  5. Iterate style and design of storefronts independently from menu items. Technology should have their own funding, resources, and projects to fulfill the infrastructure requirements without immediately affecting Business and Marketing.
  6. Point out when alternate sources may offer a better variety for consumers instead of viewed as competition. Want Pizza Hut or Long John Silvers with your Taco Bell!? Perhaps technology should realize when using another tech entities api would make more sense than building every aspect inhouse. In the past, I have seen more of these types of decisions result from a sales pitch made to Business. (because business, sales and marketing speak the same language and known pain points suffered from Technology restricting their menu)
  7. Have a simple dialogue about a collection of feature options. What was life like before combo meals!? Give Product Managers a simple vocabulary around different combinations of Tech services. API Type A + API Type X + checkout = product Configuration #1 with a set of foundation features pros and cons.
  8. Have the option to substitute features. Tech should present options  to Business likeSupersize your features with API Z” or Combine with our limited time Beta release of xyz feature!
  9. There is no play-by-play announcement for how a menu item is made. We know where hamburger meat is from, but we don’t need details on how its made! Somehow, Tech ends up explaining development details to Managers that really only speak “feature” language. Don’t blindly trust that Product Managers can make the mental leap from how your technical steps translate to features that meet their goals. They are smiling, nodding, and doubting you. Once the estimate comes through, they will be on the phone to their “feature-speaking” salesman and paying for a contractor. Instead, Go from concept to prototype or industry example. Business and Marketing need moving pictures.

I just think that if Technology had better control system on their technical components (“ingredients”) and release schedule (window order speed), then they would be able to produce more sound technical systems. Systems that offer a better collection of remixed configurations (or combo meals). At the end of the day, the goal is to widen delivery options of a product which equate to more exposure, distribution, traffic and money!

Want examples of how that could work? It’s the essence of a service-oriented architecture. Open source mashups are also a prime example of ultimate configurability. Why do big companies struggle with this? They have all the resources — cash, equipment, and man hours. I know why…

Sadly, big companies tend to have lengthy, clandestine approval processes for technical development which is driven by the quarterly desires of feature-speaking generalists. They approve tech development dollars project by project with the only measure of success being a release date.

In the end, big business twists the technology around their owns interests and tradeoffs; then, Business blames developers as if its their incompetence for why features are not portable or able to release features. Well, actually it is! But not in the way you think.

The incompetency is in a complex problem…

One – Its the lack of understanding what Business REALLY wants with their feature speak (somewhat like mind-reading, but accomplishable by some). Tech people have to trace these needs to a myriad of deliverable systems that meet the goals… and that’s flexible enough for what business and marketing will imagine next.

Two – It’s in the inability to proactively manage their own release schedule. That is controlled by finance and upper level management, mostly. Even if Tech creates their own roadmap many times the resources get exhausted in delivering some project promised by the “Silly Wild Ass Guess” (SWAG). That seems the most unfair, but for Techs that spend their whole career in this environment, even handing them a blank check doesn’t solve the problem.

Three – It’s almost impossible for most people to stay motivated in an environment where perpetual brilliant hacks that keep Business happy in terms of “ROI”, and the “right” way to do things (meaning a better use of resources that can enable more things later than a short term fix) can be seen as slowing down progress.

Four – Technology is viewed as a service that develops a product (really a project with a specific implementation and testing effort). When actually technical services should be deemed true Products.

It just doesn’t make sense… Why do mashups and web services seem exclusive to web 2.0 and startups? Large companies wastes some serious resource talent. Is that measured?

So glad I don’t work for a big company anymore! đŸ™‚

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Alright! Developers have beat me into submission!

So, All I wanted was to set up my personal prototyping tool, and maybe get a bonus functional website at my registered domain. I feel so Fraked!

After a ton of websites and like 50 different installations of… eclipse, Java SDK 5 (had to downgrade my JRE from 6), another 95MB of Jave EE something, an attempt to download JBoss… I am somehow stoked at the 540 MB (!) Red Hat Devloper Studio.

I don’t know why. After hours of fruitless searching of WTF a J2EE.jar is and just hoping it will download with some of all these freaking things I have downloaded… I would like to feel that this new Beta for Linux would save someone else all the trouble!

All I know is I am exhausted and I hate Technology!

I love Smartphones!

Even with no sleep and hyped on coffee.

A pic taken at a friendly Cingular store

A Strong tip for Developers

Installment #1 from the “I am trying to get my simple stupid site up by myself” series…

Average users, which you usually refer to as “dummies” need clear instructions and a “hey click me or me next, stupid!” button.

Okay, a blatant offender: http://httpd.apache.org/download.cgi
What am I supposed to do here? The only action button is to change the mirror.

Also, It’s my job to verify some tar file? WTF? Were geeks every really human?
Guys, get a clue.. I never ran a bulletin board before the internet started. Gimme a break! I think this is payback for their psychological damaging high school experience. Clearly, there are a lot of Nick Burns types out there. MOVE!!!

Another thing, this “How it works” thing is definitely not what an average person cares about! How about Instructions!? That’d be Awesome!

Granted, this is a bit of a rant, but this is the feedback you don’t hear from people. Average people (even smart ones) curse you for making it so hard. Don’t hate the Microsofties of the world for paying for the stupid simple. OpenSource DIY isn’t quite there yet. People pay not to have to worry about this stuff!

Okay, Ms. Negative Nancy here found a site that tries to overcome it’s geekSpeak with some social editing. Filezilla gets a B+ for effort. It directs users to its editable wiki-style page to encourage people to edit what people should know before visiting. yes, more that please! đŸ™‚

A+ to GoDaddy’s tutorial for using XP as an ftp client. Average to somewhat expereienced users don’t know what the Microsoft OS can do! Was it their job to explain and evangelize what XP can do? No, but they cared about the experience of people that aren’t Web savvy. It’s NOT common sense!

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Check out Handango’s Free App Friday

This is a campaign for checking out the free PDA or smartphone software available on Fridays. By Smartphone, we mean Palm, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Symbian, Linux, etc.

I work for Handango, so of course it’s awesome! đŸ™‚

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The various Levels of Context

So, I have been thinking about Keith Robinson’s session at Webmaster Jam Session related to Content Strategy (Awesome!.. as expressed in my fan comment) and I all too suddenly felt the old pains associated with web content creation as part of a major site redesign.

The various stakeholders… opinions… varying levels of internal experience and competence… all seemingly poised to ruin an interface with fluff, jargon, or by killing a truly significant tip or access to help, because it’s ruining their “white space”.

Oddly enough… being in a bit of a current groundhog day situation (although not as intensely doomed as an office space) at work, I thought I would go through some thoughts on all the deliciously detailed content types and contexts for producing kick ass, easily digestible content.

Here are my various categories and considerations (Feel free to comment):

General Types of Content

Text

Instructional

Promotional Copy

Dynamic, like variables or personalization

Taxonomy, Folksonomies, or Categories of reference

Labels in Interface, like fields

Alternate text for the disabled

Links

Text versions of emails

Multimedia

Images

Audio

Movies

Interactive Vector Motion Graphics, like Flash or SVG

Downloadable files

Contexts to Consider

User Access Platform

Website

Device Client

Mobile Web

Email

Mobile email

SMS Text message

Screen reader

 

Brand Perception & Obligations

Core/Primary brand

Cobrand

Whitelabel

 

Audience Familiarity

Technical Savvy

Topic Experience Level /Awareness

Segment Attitude

Repeat User

Geographic location(s)

 

Tone & Voice

Brand Guidelines & Personality

Audience Segment

 

Accessibility

Alternate options for voice

Size and speed for download and screen

 

Usability

Concise Ability to Glance or Skim

Clarity of Message

Screen Size and Resolution Displayed

 

Language

Translation nuances

Positioning to accentuate meaning

 

Goals

Business

User

Information needs

Technology

 

Information Expectations

Carry forward previously entered info

Obviousness of main idea and next step

Different meanings or local customs?

Level of persuasion needed

Okay, granted, this list is not all-exhausting (although it seems so to read, doesn’t it!?) … and appears to be quite complicated; however, this is a list you can pick and choose from as a weighted guide for your project content.

A lot of these aspects may be told to you in the project, but if they are not, then ask a few more questions.

Truthfully, it is a brilliant skill for those that can accommodate all these things, but it’s not always practical to do. Unfortunately, too often it’s either the Tech guys writing robotic error messages or a company too fearful to commit to a true personality style. Both ignore the user’s needs to recover and connect with a task or brand. Shame Shame!

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