THEME 2: Help people kick ass so they can reach their dreams. That’s how you create happiness. Make that your business and your life.
The products and services we build have a wide array of goals. We think of our business as being the category that our product falls into. My company, Revolution Health, is obviously in the business of health content, tools, and community, right? Well, most businesses are reducible to the business of happiness. Jane McGonigal predicted that quality of life will become the ultimate measure of a product. “Happiness is the new capital.”
Similarly, Kathy Sierra asked “How do you help your users kick ass?” I found that to be a really powerful question. How much time do we spend at work on work that does not help an end user kick ass? If that’s the majority of the time, either the product is on the wrong track or you’re doing the wrong work.
We need to reframe and re-evaluate what we and our products actually accomplish in our end users. Metrics should not be around page views and sales but around how effective we’ve allowed someone to be or how many interruptions we’ve eliminated from someone’s life.
Jane provided four common elements that provide true happiness across the board. Take these as starting points for your new ‘happiness startup’.
1) Satisfying work to do
2) The experience of being good at something
3) Spending time with people you like
4) Chance to be part of something bigger
I want to leave you with Randy Pauch’s life changing talk on making people’s dreams come true. Creating happiness is something bigger than the products and services we work on. It’s how we should live our lives.
Update: Looks like Randy Pauch has written a book based on his amazing lecture.
After transcribing my 15 pages of handwritten notes and starting to think through some of it, I’ll be posting a few big takeaways and themes I pulled from South By Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) this year. Here’s the first:
THEME 1: Interconnectedness and Cooperation Overlaid Onto Real Life
A feeling that I came away with after sxsw was that I had just experienced the super-connected world we envision the future to be. Everyone had macs and iphones, icons of great user centered design, and was completely interconnected in a wireless digital sea. But this high tech interconnectedness did not draw people away from face to face interaction (which we often blame new technology for doing). Instead, it actually enhanced it and sped it up. Twitter allowed people to move in groups and figure out what others were doing, yelp helped people sort out what places to go to, social networks like facebook instantly made long term connections for followup and learning more about the person you just met.
On a more global scale, web 2.0 tools are helping with the spreading of ideas and knowledge and helping people take cooperative action with that knowledge.
The Africa 2.0 session showed how Africa’s rising entertainment center, known as Nollywood, is currently relying on the internet to get content out and get Africa’s message out to the world (rather than Hollywood’s interpretation of it). Zuckerberg talked about how students from the Middle East that go to western universities are staying in better contact with friends from home and creating idea bridges between the two worlds.
On top of the spreading of ideas was the idea of cooperative action on those ideas. People have worked together to create an index of knowledge known as Wikipedia that is far larger than the Encyclopedia Britannica. Henry Jenkins spoke about how Harry Potter social networks in the UK are starting to make political actions as the members grow together. Facebook groups allow people to channel joint interests or movements together
Overlaying real life
In the last few years I think the new web 2.0 technology and jargon have been the focus. But it seems like the discussion is starting to revolve a lot more on how those technologies are creating real world changes and disruptions. A last example of this was Jane McGonigal’s talk on how games can be used to better design real life. Mashups on the internet between two technologies has become a daily occurance, but this talk sheds light on the new ultimate mashup, the mashing up of technology and the world. Online gaming and social networks have drawn users from the real world to the virtual world, but new ways and ideas are emerging to push some of that back into real life.
I found a really nicely implemented Find function on Bluehost’s pretty complex hosting dashboard. It combines the lookup capabilities of a program like Quicksilver or Spotlight, but uses the actual dashboard interface to show the filtered search results.
Click on ‘Demo Login’ button
I’ve thinking this could be a useful model for navigating a personal health record. Imagine if the icons on this example dashboard were instead PHR fields or doctors you have saved to your PHR. This would definitely help in retrieving information out of PHR quickly or make updating a single value easier.
I finally got so sick of how slowly my pages were loading when hosted on Godaddy I made the switch to a new hosting company. I went with Bluehost because 1) it was listed on the wordpress.org suggested web hosts, and 2) it nudged out the others on the list with the live chat tech support.
A lot of the hosting sites were relatively close in stats like storage, bandwidth. All of them were way over what I’d ever imagining ever using (though if my blog got that much traffic it’d be nice). In the end, the ability to jump into a chat at any time to fix problems really trumped the little differences in hosting statistics. I ended up firing up 3 chats to solve some minor issues I had while setting up my site. Had this been with a hosting company that only had phone or e-mail I would’ve gone nuts, but instantly solving problems with really helpful reps was a pleasure. Blue Host wins with the great user experience.
Also nice is the automatic WordPress install and easy to use panel that they let you sample before the site. Pricing is reasonable. They do make you sign up for at least 3 months, and at least 12 months to avoid the $30 setup fee. However, they have a 30 day cancellation guarantee so to me it’s fine to have the longer contracts. I went for the 12 month.
After about 7 years with my trusty Sony Cybershot I decided it was time to retire it for something new and also get my Mom to make the jump from film to digital, too. The biggest annoyance with my old camera were the long time to turn on and take the first photo (especially with flash on), so this was a big priority. I used CNet for most of my comparisons.
One piece of UI I really liked was their Recently Viewed / Comparison box. On many sites I’ve seen the Comparison feature placed in the search results and Recently Viewed as a separate piece of functionality (like on the bottom of Amazon pages). This is a really smart combination of showing your last 4 viewed products, linking to those products (clicking on the picture), ability to compare a subset (checkmarks and compare button). The final touch that really make this UI superb is the ability to remove items from the widget. Often the usefulness of modules like this are diluted because they get filled up with items that you aren’t interested in at all. The list gets so full and loses relevance and it’s almost as easy to go back to the search results to move back and forth between products.
So what did I end up buying? I went with the Canon Powershot S870. Canon still seems to be the leader in this class of cameras (ultracompact and compact). High ratings, fast load up time, image stabilization, and small size were the main reasons. I also ordered the new wireless SD card called Eye-Fi. This card transfers your photos directly to your computer and/or online photo sharing site wirelessly. I’ll write about how it works after trying it out.
If you’re looking for a camera for your mom or anyone a little older, I recommend the Panasonic Lumix TZ3. The camera’s exterior has a bit more of a big and chunky feel. The controls are more tangible feeling than many of the ultracompacts. I think my mom was really drawn to it because it reminisced of her analogue film camera. The screen is pretty big and Panasonic used nice big clear fonts and my mom immediately made positive comments on as soon as they came up. The 10x zoom lens is pretty beautiful for a consumer grade camera, probably at the upper end of its class. Definitely a great choice for anyone who doesn’t need one of the ultra small cameras that are becoming the norm for consumer models.
I’m back from SXSW Interactive today and am feeling quite delusional from the lack of sleep and 5 days of hearing great ideas and meeting amazing people. I think the best part of the conference was just being around such interesting and passionate people in similar fields. As a fairly new user experience designer, it was great to finally meet other similar people around the country and hear their stories.
I’ve got tons of notes to sift through this week but will get to that tomorrow, as well as get started on making arrangements for next year. =) For now, here’s a few of my favorite quotes from this week:
“Ebola style virality” (from battledecks)
“Fuck yea, it scales!” (also from battledecks, probably the best slide I’ve ever seen, see below)
“Steve Jobs is like the pope of design”
“The liver is evil, it must be punished” (indeed)
This Friday will be my first time at the South By Southwest Interactive Festival (SXSW). I’ve been to a couple other conferences but this is by far the largest. It looks like it’s going to be a blast in Austin. Insane amounts of great music, warm weather, parties, bbq, and getting to meet some of the top designers and digital creatives. It looks like it will be a bit of a sensory overload, but I’ve found a few links that may help you plan / get psyched for this event.
Schedule your panels AND parties
Sched.org is probably the most helpful resource you’ll find for planning your SXSW. It comes set up with every panel and party for the whole week. You mouse over to read the description and select the checkmark if you want to put it on your calendar. At the end you can access your list at a custom URL or download it all to an ical folder. This is a really awesome site.
Where to eat
A great thread listing places to eat over at Chowhound. One place that keeps popping up is Casino El Camino. I’ll definitely have to stop by for a burger.
Get a map
A great easy to read map of downtown Austin can be found at downtownaustin.org (pdf download). Great for locating things, though I hear 6th street is kind of the epicenter of everything, so you might not really need a map as long as you can get there.
Listen to music
Get into the frenzy by listening to free SXSW music through the SXSW Player. The bands you hear on there will probably be walking around while you’re there.
Other Austin stuff
Time to explore the city will probably be a little scarce with all the stuff going on downtown, but a here’s a pretty good travel guide for Austin.
And of course, don’t forget to set up a Twitter account and hook it up to your phone.
After about a year of waiting, my senior project exploring 3D Patient Records for Dentistry has been published as the cover story in the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA)! I had no idea our work would end up getting published let alone in a journal like JADA. I’m also very excited that our group was able to get a 2 page attachment explaining what user centered design is to an audience that is not very familiar with the field but will hopefully want to push for more exploration of it in medicine.
I’d like to thank the professors at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Dental Informatics, Titus Schleyer and Thankam Thyvalikakath, and the head of the Carnegie Mellon HCI undergraduate project course, Jason Hong, for making this all possible.
See the research write-ups and video demo for the paper.
Microsoft is shaking up the consumer health technology landscape today with their launch of HealthVault. The site allows anyone to sign up and store and share all of your health information and the health information of your family (even pets). The most intriguing part of the application is how Microsoft has offloaded much of the data entering, viewing, and manipulating work to third parties. Organizations like the AHA build blood pressure trackers and hardware companies like Johnson & Johnson allow data from the devices to feed into the HealthVault.
So in a way Microsoft has offloaded much of the user experience of storing health information to third parties. While this probably helped them get a jump on Google and other players in getting the product out, I think it leads to a very disjointed experience. I need to go to the AHA to enter my blood pressure and to another program with another set of visualization tools to look at another type of health measurement. A good move would be to create a Facebook style hosting platform where these third parties could host the front ends of their applications within a section of the HealthVault, or at least have a place where viewing and data entry are accessible.
The thing that I like most is the downloadable Connection Center application. It syncs the data from a variety of hardware monitors and uploads them to your Health Vault account. In the end, it’s this kind of usefulness and ease of use that is needed for people to make the leap to use a system like this. Privacy is always a concern, but time and time again we see the initial privacy scare fade away with every new technology. Remember when online banking seemed like a gamble? There’s a threshold at which the usefulness of the new paradigm mitigated our privacy fears.
But here’s where Microsoft’s partner strategy takes a twist. By having you give access to a third party to enter data, your information is always going through another party besides Microsoft. This seems a bit strange, akin to Citibank making me funnel all my transactions through Paypal. Because of that Health Vault really should have at least some basic information entry and editing so that it can work in a complete silo.
Some of the pages and tools I designed at Revolution Health got on to TV! See below for the video.
NBC news in New York, I believe, was talking about online health sites they like. The two sites reviewed were the Toolkit landing page and the calculators. The medical guy actually ran through the Lose One Pound calculator. They talk start talking about Revolution Health about 2 minutes in. I’m quite flattered. Thanks Sree at NBC!
Link to video
Keep an eye on RevolutionHealth.com this week as we’re going into our version 1.0 launch!
Have you ever had an awesome voicemail you’ve wanted to download? Or maybe you just wished you could keep better track of your messages from multiple phones all in one place. Well, those were both me and I found an amazing free service called GotVoice. You basically enter you phone’s information, and automagically the site checks for messages up to 3 times a day, downloads the messages into mp3s, and e-mails you with any messages you’ve gotten.
This solves the three problems above very well. 1) You can download any of those “keeper messages” to your hard drive 2) If you have an organized e-mail system, you can simply treat your voice messages as part of your inbox and track them like you do your e-mails 3) If you have multiple phones, you no longer need to keep checking multiple phones.
The service is ad supported. They do ask for some marketing info and they include an ad in the e-mail (pretty smart) they send as well as put ads on the site. They also have premium service levels if you want them to check your messages more times per day and get some other cool features.
I’m excited. One of the most useful sites I’ve found in a while.
Saw a new startup called Scrybe who will has a new online office suite offering in beta. It looks like quite a web application with new innovative ways to manage scheduling and collaboration tasks. They’ve released a video on their site showcasing the new features which look thoroughly impressive, as is the marketing technique of releasing this video out on YouTube and other viral video networks. Very smart. My favorite feature was the ability to print all your scheduling and to-do data onto a specially formatted piece of paper that folds up in a smart way to fit in your wallet. That and the ability to access your documents while offline (I’ve never seen that on any web app yet, not sure how it’s done) make this tool accessible and seamless enough to work into everyday life. Can’t wait to try it out.