Program or Be Programmed:
Ten Commands for a Digital Age
Douglas Rushkoff
  • “You are our last, best hope for peace.”
  • first time I spoke in Portland was 17 years ago, for the book Siberia.
  • First publisher cancelled the book, because they thought the internet would be over by 1992. They thought it was like CB radio.
  • Premise of first book: We were moving into a hyper-text reality. We would imagine things happening, and they would happen. Thought we would need psychodelic people, people who were comfortable with the idea that we would have visions, and that they would come out.
  • Very upsetting to people the idea that we would live into a world where what we imagined would come true.
  • “but don’t worry, children and stoners don’t have a problem with that.”
    • so it was the stoners who did the early innovations, it’s why early internet culture was so weird.
  • now the resistance is that “programming is too hard”, that people can’t do that.
  • so at first, a resistance to dream, and now a resistance to work.
  • so certain kinds of people and forces have been in charge of the movement forward.
    • so in 1992, was like dropping acid. anything was possible. experiencing hypertext for the first time was crazy.
    • coming out and seeing the grid pattern in new york, maybe him realize that everything is a design choice, someone’s decision about how things should be. it’s us programming the world.
    • all of the bridges coming into NY have 8 1/2 foot clearances. why? to prevent buses from coming into the city to keep the black people out. someone created that.
    • SXSW: 
      • was once like webvisions, a bunch of people trying to figure it all out, trying to figure out if they can make a living at it.
      • now it’s about making that next killer app, about getting angel funding. it’s all feeds into an artificial scarcity central bank system that’s destroying the planet. 
      • how is that the hacker ethic?
      • it’s fine to make apps, but do we have to support a system that is destroying the planet?
  • we have all had the experience of a favorite local band. the worst thing that can happen is that they make it big. suddenly their music changes. suddenly they are everybody’s band. you’ve lost something.
  • imagine if you woke up, and the only operating systems was windows. you wouldn’t know anything different. you wouldn’t have the idea that there could be other operating systems. you wouldn’t even know what operating systems were, but there would be nothing to talk about.
  • He once thought kids would have this all figured out. That they would be better able to sense fantasy versus the real world. That they would be better critical thinkers. But that’s not what has happened. They accept things at face value.
    • Ask any kid what Facebook is for, and they will say “to help me make friends”.
    • Is that what they are talking about in the corporate boardroom? How to help Johnny make friends? No, they are talking about how to monetize Johnny’s social network.
    • Johnny thinks he is Facebook’s customer. But their customer is where the money comes from. Which means the advertiser. The product is Johnny. The customer is the advertiser.
  • Speech: people learned not how to listen, but to talk.
  • Literacy: people learn not just how to read, but how to write.
  • Computers: People learn how to use, but not how to to program. This is a big loss.
  • I’m not talking about knowing how to change a sparkplug or fix the engine. I’m talking about how to drive the car. It’s the difference between being a driver and being a passenger.
  • It’s not just being a passenger, it’s about being a passenger, and the windows are blacked out.
  • This generation is not going to learn how to program. It took a thousand years for literacy to become commonplace. But we can teach people at least understand the biases of these technology. 
    • Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. –> But guns are biased towards killing people. More so than say, pillows.
  • Digital technologies are biased too. If we understand the biases, then we don’t use them as stupidly as we do now.
  • The 10 Commandments helped us through a transition from an oral tradition to a written tradition.
  • We want to stay in command of digital technology. Not in the control of digital technology.
  • These are not just rakes and hammers and things that you use. They are things that you program and then they go off and do stuff. Robotics and genetics and … – they live on.
  • We want to build the world we want through them. Or at least 
  • Biases
    • The Bias of Time: 
      • Digital Technology is biased asynchronously. 
      • It’s not about speed, it that you could do them in your own time. Email vs. phone.
      • You could be smarter on the Well than in real life. You’d download the conversations, you’d read them, you’d have all night to think about and write replies, and then upload them. 
      • When people try to adapt themselves to this asynchronous behavior…. when they carry a smartphone, and get vibrated anytime we get a tweet or an email or anything. Then people get phantom vibrations. It’s a maladaption. People are  having the same issues that 9-1-1 operators used to get. Now everyone does.
      • People don’t want an always-on mentality. Your boss might want it, but you don’t really want. But we get suckered into it.
      • Command: Don’t Be Always On.
    • The Bias of Distance:
      • Digital technology is really good for things that are far away, not so good for things that are really close. 
      • You don’t want to text the person you are having dinner with. But you do want to text the person across the country.
      • Command: Live In Person
      • He followed a teenager through her nightly ritual of texting with friends to find out where the best party was. For two hours… And once she was there, her activity was to take pictures of where she was and share them to show that she had been there. But she was never actually living in the moment.
    • The Bias of Choice
      • Digital technology is biased towards discrete choice. 
      • Everything has to be chosen or it doesn’t exist. What happens when you have to choice all the time? You are guided by the choices that are available to you.
      • It’s like walking down the detergent isle. You have 300 detergents to choose from, but they are all detergents made by 3 companies.
      • Your Facebook status: are you married or single? You have limited choices, you  are forced to make a choice. 
      • Command: It is OK to choose none of the above.
      • If you are being forced to make a choice you don’t want to make, don’t do it. Don’t confirm to the program. Why are they making you do it?
    • The Bias of Complexity:
      • Digital tech looks complex, but it is actually biased towards oversimplicity.
      • If you are forced to make choices too earlier, at low resolution, at a great distance.
      • People are looking at the tools for amateur production, and think that because they exist, there is no value to professional production. Why should we pay for a journalist? Because corporations are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to convince you of stuff that isn’t true. Can’t we spend a hundred bucks to have some guy spend more than an hour writing a blog post trying to figure out what really is true?
    • The Bias of Scale:
      • Command: One size does not fit all.
      • Talk to any business person, and they want to know “can it scale?” It it can’t be everything to everyone, then they can’t grow their money exponentially.
      • This is what is leading to the downfall of business in America.
    • The Bias of Identify
      • Be yourself
      • Do whatever I do as me.
      • Once I go down the road of segmenting my life…
      • 94% of human communication is non-verbal. 6% is the words that you type.
        • your pupil size.
        • are you breathing with the person or not
        • are they nodding
        • it’s call “rapoor”. 
        • if you are living online, without all those social cues, you don’t know what they mean. you are living like a person with aspergers. you just don’t know.
        • It’s why analytic tools have such a hard time. Does “good one Obama” mean something good? or is it sarcastic? 
    • The Bias of Social
      • The Internet is biased toward Social
      • Content was never king, Contact was.
      • The military tried to use it, and what happened? The scientists talked about Star Trek.
      • Command: Don’t Sell Your Friends.
      • This will be the next big opportunity: to sell your friends, your friendship relationships. 
      • Companies are so focused on getting friends. When what would really be good is if they got their friends to be friends together.
    • The Bias of Openess
      • It is biased toward openess.
      • Command: Share, don’t steal
      • It’s so easy to steal in real life. Someone could break into my house and take stuff, it is easy. But we have a social contract that prohibits it. But we don’t have that social contract online.
    • The Bias of Purpose
      • It is biased toward purpose
      • Command: Program or Be Programmed
      • If you are not using the technology, then the technology is using you.
      • If you want someone to read, they have to learn to write. They don’t have to be James Joyce. They just have to string some words together. Then they can appreciate James Joyce.
  • We are the last people who were alive before digital technology. We are the last people who understand life before digital technology. We can choose to design technology to expose things or conceal. To support corporate economic structure, or to fight it. 
  • Q&A
    • Q: about privacy…
      • We are not consumers, we are people. 
      • The direct marketing industry was doing this stuff on notecards before they had computers. they had a card for every household on every block. 1 car or 2? dog or no dog? kids or no kids?
        • They wanted to save stamps
      • They can use factor analysis on Facebook to figure out what kids are going to be gay. They can predict who is going to get the flu based on twitter post frequency.
      • People are leaving this huge trail of data everywhere they do online.
      • Everything you do online might as well be chiseled in the side of the partheon. It seems to ethereal, but it is seriously there.
    • Q: what about the way facebook is program kidding to use their tools?
      • it’s like early MTV. MTV was watching kid culture, and kids were watching MTV, creating these kinds of feedback loops
      • kids use Facebook like we used to use the mirror: they primp themselves online, how they look. but facebook gives them the tools to create a monetizable social graph. That’s got biases in it.
    • Q: What about the the level of abstraction? Technology seems to be about abstraction.
      • When the alphabet was invented, people are to trust that the symbols used didn’t have hidden messages. 

The Best is the Enemy of the Good:
Similarities in Perfection Between Magic and Design
Jared Spool @jmspool
Reed Spool
  • demo: magic show by reed spool, manipulation tricks
  • Thurston – World’s Famous Magician
    • first person to do large stage magic
    • would travel with nine rail cars
  • Early magicians and the world of magic have a lot of parallels with experience design
  • Magicians focused on
    • Creative aspects of work
    • But also on business – how to make it into a career
    • Community of Practice – magic conferences
  • Mastery
    • Pattern
      • Beginning
        • starting out in magic is really hard.
        • unless you are a surgeon or a watchmaker, this is probably the hardest thing you’ve ever done.
        • magic is inherently deceptive. the most advanced magicians do the hardest tricks and make it look simple
        • as a beginner, you might see dove magic, and be inspired by it, and want to do it, yet it turns out that working with live animals is one of the hardest things to do it.
        • to learn, it’s hard to know how to do it, what it is supposed to look like.
        • starting learning with coin magic. duller than doves, but easier to learn
      • Mimic
        • say one coin magician, and was so inspired by his mastering, that he set out to mimic everything this guy had done. to be able to do all of his tricks, the way he did them.
      • Innovate
        • a new innovation is the picture frame idea: you want the magic to fit in the picture frame if someone takes a picture. you also want the magic to be near your face, because it adds emotion.
        • when studying classical magic, the thimble routine, for example, you are studying someone else and trying to understand why they did it the way they did it: are they concealing something, or do they need their hand in a position.
    • Word processing
      • Wang 2200
        • first word processor
        • cost $14,000. 
        • in a one week training class, you would learn how to save a file, open a file, and change the ribbon. in the week two advanced class, you learned bold and italics.
        • people would pay for this! it was an advantage over where existed before.
      • Then came WordPerfect. It wasn’t about the technology, it was about the features. They added more and more features. They gave you cardboard cutouts to remember all the commands… you’d put the cutouts on the keyboard or monitor.
      • Then came Microsoft Word. Now it wasn’t about the features, it was about the experience. You didn’t need training or cardboard cutouts.
    • This pattern repeats itself: technology to features to experience. 
      • Similar to magic: beginners, to mimic, to innovate.
    • Beginner Example:
      • Web site sucks. But she’s just a beginner. She doesn’t know.
    • Mimic Example:
      • AOL website – copied the design of Yahoo, which came out 6 months earlier.
    • Books too…
      • Beginning: …
      • Mimic: Information Architecture (polar bear book)
      • Innovation: Designing Interactions
    • Are we plotting the path of mastery?
  • Renaissance Man (or Woman)
    • Knowledge of every aspect
      • Did a performance in a middle school.
        • the light setup was pale yellow lights. he asked for a spotlight. he wanted something big that didn’t move.
          • what he got was a tiny spotlight that followed his hands.
          • he asked the lighting guy… what I wanted was this… the guy described, and gave him the words to describe what he wanted. now he can communicate with a lightning guy to the extent of saying what he needs,
        • these things aren’t magic. but they are part of performing. he needs to know a little bit of everything to be able to put on a good show.
      • What do you do when there is an emergency
        • decide whether it can be salvaged or thrown away
        • do that
        • forget about it until the routine is done
        • after the show is over, when you’ve gone home, pick apart what led up to that mistake, what happened during the mistake, and how you recovered. could it have been avoided? or did you just need an out? someway to get to a better place.
      • Yearn to learn
        • be in a constantly learning, constantly observing state. if there is a magic show, i will go, even if i expect it to be crap. 
        • pick up a kid’s book about a topic. some of the best stuff is in these kid’s books
    • Experience Design
      • Many basic skills to experience design. 
        • information architecture, usability practices, visual design, interaction design, copy writing, editing and curating, information design.
      • There are many other skills…
        • social networks, agile methods, analytics, use cases, marketing, technology, roi, business knowledge, domain knowledge
      • And soft skills
        • critiquing, facilitating, sketching, storytelling, presenting
      • And yet the teams that are doing this stuff are getting smaller. The notion that someone could specialized in just one of these skill areas just isn’t workable.
      • T-shaped man vs. Dripping Paint Model
        • T-shaped man says there is breadth, and one area of deep expertise.
        • Dripping paint model says there is breadth, and there is expertise in many areas, of varying depth.
      • magic trick by jared spool: 
  • Practice
    • Practice is not the work. Practice to maintain and improve skills.
    • Practice solidifies things. Perfect practice makes perfect.
    • When you don’t know how things are supposed to look, it’s hard to practice. Practice comes from reading the book over and over again with the props in hand. Or watching the youtube video over and over again.
    • Since some moves, even difficult moves, require talking at the same time, it means the move must be done with the back of your brain. So you have to practice the move over and over again without even thinking about it.
    • Practice never becomes fun. You have to make it fun.
  • In the design realm, we have a lot of skills we need, but we rarely get to practice them. 
    • We do one group exercise in which teams of 5 have 90 minutes to come up with a paper prototype. Then we have users come in and try to use them. Teams compete to see whose users can do the job best. In 90 minutes, they are practicing prototyping, sketching, usability, interaction, etc.
  • The Best is the Enemy of the Good
    • In the engineering world, we hear “we just need to be good enough. we’ve reached the point of diminishing returns.” the best is the enemy, because it is a waste of effort.
    • In the magicians viewpoint, good is not satisfactory. It is the enemy… it is not enough to be good enough. You have to be the best at what you do.
    • Perhaps magicians have the benefit of experience. 
  • The Best
    • Are we plotting the path of mastery?
    • Are we building renaissance people?
    • When do we allow ourselves the time, space, or budget to practice?

What Software Development Can Learn from Filmmaking
Justin Garrity
  • Example: doing paper prototyping at a very small shared table. Gets people out of their cubes, away from their computer, and working together
  • director vs manager
    • photo: steve carroll as manager on the office
    • photo: movie director behind the camera
  • definition of product manager and project manager is about the process and artifacts.
  • a film director definition is about the relationship of the director to the other people. 
  • a film producer definition talks about preserving the integrity and vision of a film.
    • (note to self: use film director and producer definitions as inspiration for what a product and project manager’s roles should be.)
  • a script…
    • has the dialogue and very brief directions about what it takes to get from one scene to the next. it’s not to be as exhaustive as possible, but the bare minimum necessary.
  • the storyboard for a project…
    • it is up on the wall.
    • it shows the sequence of a film
    • it’s on the wall where everyone can see it.
    • you can do the same thing for software. put all the screenshots up on the wall. so that people can see how it all fits together.
  • too often we measure how we have added… how many lines of code? how many features?
    • but in film, it is the reverse. we cut away film. we try to do the minimum necessary to convey the story and the emotions.
  • paper prototyping…
    • when you are dealing with paper, people don’t invest too much in it.
    • if you show someone a piece of paper, and they hate it, you can throw it away.
    • if you have written a bunch of code, it is hard to throw it all away. you try to save what you can.
  • credits
    • in movies, everyone gets credited.
    • where is that in software?
    • adobe does this in the about screen.
    • we can use more credits in the actual software.
  • director’s cut

The 3rd Generation of Social Media in the Enterprise
Kevin Murphy
facilitated by
public relations
story telling
monitoring tools
web content
measuring tools
customer service
business strategy
coordinated systems
  • evolve the enterprise
    • be the coach
    • extend the strategy
  • core campaign / engagement pieces
    • what is the story you are trying to tell?
    • what are the building blocks? a shiny video, a cool graphic, a blog post
  • the open system
    • listening: not just reading what people have written, but looking at trends, and analyzing trends and sentiment.
    • ticketing: example – radiant6 engagement manager: you are tracking what is coming in, and making sure they get assigned out to experts, who can address it and close the ticket.)
    • content library: you need to be able to find, aggregate the content you can use: videos, slides, explanations, so that everyone can use and share it. if the ceo makes a cool video and shows it at a conference, do your bloggers know about it, and use it in their blogs?
    • crm
    • measuring
  • example flow…
    • issue is id’d
    • assigned to SME
    • SME finds related content
    • SME publishes
    • amplifiers and engagers tracked in CRM
    • results measured
    • sales follows up on CRM contacts
  • gamblers in vegas, if they check in and provide any social media information, the casinos are checking their cloud score, and giving them comps.
  • Setting up the Systems
    • Content: Curation and repository for everyone. Make it public.
    • Active Listening, which leads to Ticketing, ticketing includes CRM
      • It’s not enough to run the reports, someone has to be watching those dashboards and doing something.
    • Transformation > Filtering & Feeds
    • Social CRM – it’s not just for finding advocates, but also for creating leads.
      • TIP: If you aren’t doing it now, ask people for their twitter handles. You might not know what to do with it right now, but you’ll eventually want it.
  • Ticketing Tools:
    • Awareness
    • CodeTweets
    • Radiant6 Engagement Manager
  • Questions
    • Q: How do you manage twitter identity?
      • Use your company name. 
      • Maybe have a name per global region: BusinessNameChina, BusinessNameUS
      • Maybe have a name per key brand (e.g. the way HP does for printers vs. computers, for consumer vs. commercial brands)
  • ROI
    • ROI is not just activity, it’s the value of the impact.
      • Impact on web traffic
      • projected sales from an engaged customer
      • impact on cost of marketing
      • impact on cost of lead generation
      • impact on cost of support
      • impact on length of the sales cycle
    • What is the value of an engaged customer versus an unengaged customer?
  • HTC product support wiki
    • drastically reduced cost of support for HTC
    • especially because, only the most advanced users made it past the carrier’s customer support to HTC customer support.
    • these customers benefited most from the technical information and contributed tips and hacks
  • Potential points of debate
    • unified strategy or functional strategies

New Site Launches: Learn From Our Mistakes
Jeffrey Bunch (,
Renee McKechnie (@reneemck)
  • Jeffrey Bunch: Two site launches of within a 3 1/2 year period. One with an agency, one in-house.
  • Renee McKechnie: OHSU, managed their web team. Spent 3 years in meetings coming up with horrific ideas.
  • Don’t:
    • Set an unrealistic timeline
      • There’s different levels of understand as to what it takes to get a basic website up, or advanced website. Executives who lack the understanding won’t hesitate to say “I really like the CNN website, can you do something like that for us?”
      • As the manager, it’s necessary to educate the executives on core concepts like feature creep. The technical people have to set the expectations of what is realistic.
    • Allow design by committee
      • We tried to cater to OHSU’s consensus based community. But that doesn’t work for creative design work.
      • “By show of hands, how do you feel about the blue header bar above the…”
      • We couldn’t get consensus on any design element.
      • What we should have done was come in with two discrete designs, and just worked among them. We set a limit: we will have 2 designs, and we will do up to 2 revisions of each. It becomes a “you can have pancakes or cereal”, not “what do you want for breakfast?”
    • Fail to form relationships with the IT team
      • First people i buy coffee for, and take out for beers is the IT people.
      • They are the biggest allies for you in any site launch: they will back up about what is feasible, etc. 
      • In some companies, the IT people aren’t really consulted, they just hired to keep the network up, it becomes a vey adversarial relationship. 
      • Physical proximity to IT really matters. The ability to walk around the corner and walk up to someone and discuss an issue makes a difference.
      • Q: What about being distributed remotely?
        • Basecamp, Yammer, really helps with timeshifting.
      • Q: How big is your group, how do you avoid design by committee?
        • We try to use subgroups of the interested, relevant parties, so it’s just 2 or 3 people, instead of our entire 13 person team.
        • we put out requests for comments, reviews on our blog, and get interested parties.
    • Assign content creation to the wrong people
      • It’s hard to get people to commit to it, to deliver it on time, etc.

Read/Write World
Blaise Aguera y Arcas
  • Background: livelabs, bing maps
  • Topics
    • photosynth 2008-present
    • spatial media: driving/flying, crawling
    • reality mashup: putting it together
    • future
  • Photosynth
    • launched in 2008
    • Take groups of photos, computer does image processing to stitch together images in 3-dimension.
    • demo: 100+ pictures taken of a woman using an ordinary digital camera. you can pan, zoom, rotate around.
    • you can see point representation, rotate around an object, zoom in and out.
    • it’s a new kind of medium. it’s not a photo, not a video. it’s a 3 dimensional art form.
    • you can take pictures of people and bananas, but the really interesting part is buildings and places – photosynths of geographically bound locations. 
    • demo: bing maps
      • zoom into map, street view, etc.
      • but also… green zits. these are user contributed photosynths.
      • at the metropolitan museum in NY, a user contributed more than 1,000 photos of the greek exhibit. 
      • it’s enough that the point representation actually shows the entire floor plan, and you can zoom and move around in the space.
      • You can get Photosynth for the iPhone…
  • Microsoft imagery
    • aerial
    • oblique
    • streetside
    • high resolution areal photos of the entire united states and europe. not just cities, but everything. includes height data, terrain mapping, land use maps, building footprints, etc.
  • converge
    • the meta-data: the images will never all be in the same place, e.g. flickr photos at flickr, map tiles on microsoft servers. but the meta-data, the digital rights, the geospatial data, the semantic connection, named places… all of that is what really need to be converged. RML: real-life markup language.
    • service: need a single API to be able to ask “what’s available in this place”? It’s similar to how the value of the web is unlocked by having a search engine that indexes the web.
    • viewer: 
  • do it once, do it right…
    • read/write
    • realtime
    • nosql
    • uniformly represented rights
    • opensource viewers
    • mashup-friendly
  • consider…
    • keyframe + tracking = strong augmented reality.
      • weak augmented reality is using the GPS and compass to approximate where things are.
      • but strong augmented reality is taking the photo, matching it against the database, and now doing a highly precise annotation of the visual field.
  • questions
    • Q: What about the privacy issues?
      • every country has different rules
      • the stuff that is captured by microsoft is only in the public view, what anyone can see walking by…
      • the highest value imagery is downtown, businesses, stuff where people want visibility.
      • the privacy implications of indexing people’s images… it’s like the implications of indexing people’s web pages. in the beginning, there were people who put stuff up on the web, and figured it would be private if they just didn’t tell anyone the url. indexing search engines made this an unworkable approach to privacy, but added a ton of value to the web, and other tools (e.g. facebook) arose to maintain privacy where it is desired.
    • Q: temporal aspects to this – building facades over time, a construction site.
      • Yes, you want to be able to time travel as well as space travel. We have archival stuff no, we just haven’t added explicit time navigation.

I attended Web Visions 2010, the Design Conference in Portland, Oregon. Compared to 2009, the conference feels much smaller: perhaps half as big as last year. The conference also seems more tightly focused on design. In 2009, I recalled more sessions on social media, analytics, business, and technology.

CORRECTION: 2010/5/28: Brad Smith, Executive Director of Web Visions, informed me that there were actually more attendees this year, but that the conference moved to a bigger event space. It goes to show that the context in which something happens can substantially influence your perception of the event.

I love design, don’t get me wrong, but I think I liked it more when there was a greater variety of topics. I’m not a full time designer, although I do have design aspects to my work. But I also have social computing, startup, and business aspects to what I do.
Sessions I attended this year:

I tend to like both the expert topic type presentations as well as people’s personal stories. In what I think of as an expert topic presentation, the presenter has deep expertise in a given field, and can draw upon many experiences and other people’s research. By comparison, people’s personal stories of building a business focus on a chronological unfolding of their experiences over time, and give you a very realistic portrayal of the pitfalls and roundabout way that things happen in the real world. Both are valuable, and I do like that Web Visions has both kinds of presentations.

Here are some of the themes I noticed this year:

As I noted before, the critical innovation in many cases is now the user experience, as opposed to any kind of technological innovation. Alexa Andrejewski told the story of having the idea of Foodspotting but no technology expertise – so she spent six months iterating on the design before she found someone to implement it. Gene Smith spoke about creating a good user experience on top of Sharepoint. Web implementation is cheap, it’s something you can do in your spare time, Jason Glaspey explained, with many examples of businesses launched over the course of weeks and in people’s spare time.

In many cases, the best ideas come when there is no expectation of profit, no goal to launch a business. This was a topic at SXSW Interface, and again at Web Visions in Jason Glaspey’s talk on Build Something, Build Anything. delicious, upcoming, metafilter, even facebook were all started as sideprojects to “scratch an itch” as they say. Americans watch 100M hours of TV commercials in a single weekend – that’s the same effort that went into creating Wikipedia. We could have a new Wikipedia every weekend if we just gave up commercials. A good side project should fulfill some goal completely (art, money, career), rather than be something that might be for any of those, but doesn’t accomplish any of them.

User experience design has some concrete tools you can use to create, communicate, and validate your product vision. There are also some specific lessons about how to get people registered on your site, get them engaged, and get them to come back. We want to include humanness in our interfaces without making them too uncanny.

Other summaries of Web Visions 2010:

Build Something Build Anything
Jason Glaspey
  • Clay Shirky: in the 1950s, there was a 40 hour work week. people had time, and they didn’t know what to do. enter the sitcom.
    • At the 2008 Web 2.0 Expo they discussed…
    • How many hours did it take to assemble wikipedia: about 100M hours of effort. 
    • Americans watch 200 billion hours of TV each year.
    • Americans watch 100M hours of commercials in a single weekend.
    • We could have another wikipedia every weekend if people just gave up commercials.
  • Some side projects make it big
    • Examples
      • delicious
      • upcoming
      • metafilter
    • But they can be successful even if they don’t
  • Some inspiring examples
    • Again and Again: 23 year old college grad. Passionate about Apple products. Like this band. Built a video for the band. Got over 1.5M views. Has since gotten a huge jump in his career.
      • He demonstrated his skills. He manifested what he wanted.
      • Written up in NY Times, Mac blogs. Talked with Apple. Made videos for Microsoft.
    • What is Google Wave
      • Video by Epipheo Studios
      • Google made a 1 1/2 hour video. Nobody wanted to watch it.
      • So this guy made a 2 1/2 minute video. Just to try to get an invite to Google Wave.
      • Has since been hired by Google to do “what is google chrome”, “what is google tv”.
      • Their company cannot keep up with demand… 
      • The project they did in a day got them tons of attention.
    • iPod Touch Ad
      • Nick Haley: 18 year old in the UK
        • He loved his iPod touch, and loved Apple ads.
        • Got an email from Apple, “Would he please come to California and be the creative director to shoot a polished version of the ad.” -> which turned into the actual TV ad.
      • never thought he would even be in advertising, and now it very successful
  • Beyond video, and some personal examples
    • happy hour finder
      • was novel at the time. got written up on lifehacker, won google mashups. got a couple of thousand user-contributed locations.
      • something they built in their spare time… a few hundred dollars invested. over a couple of years, it built up.
      • it was not about financial success. no advertisements. just for fun. 
        • this was attractive to people…
      • finally these sold it… not retirement money, but decent enough.
      • But it led to jobs: they never saw a resume, or a portfolio: just saw unthirsty. The fact that they built something so cool and compelling for fun, just because they wanted to build something: they just had to hire him.
    • Jason on Cars
      • As a perk at a job got to drive different classic and exotic cars on weekends or the evening.
      • So decided to write a WordPress blog doing lifestyle reviews of the cars. For two years they would drop off a brand new car everything Thursday, and pick up the old car. He made a couple of hundred dollars a month on advertising from the blog, and got to drive all these cool cars.
      • Just for setting up a blog and writing a post each weekend.
      • started dec 28th 2008, launched on January 17th.
      • got bacon from all over the country, filmed content, built site, ecommerce.
      • it was really fun, really novel.
      • sold it in january of this year…
      • got invited to speak of webvisions “we built a company in 3 weeks”.
        • “wow, that would make a great book.” – a publisher asked them to write about a book about it.
    • Paleo Plan: a site to make it easier and cheaper to follow paleo diet
      • in 3 weeks launched a site. you get a shopping list. you get a meal plan.
      • saves people about 4 hours a month by not having to do that.
      • he charges $10/month to save 4 hours of time.
      • he works about 3 hours a week on it, and now it’s his primary source of income.
    • They don’t all work: He has 5 or 6 sites that failed
      • some are bad ideas
      • some have bad timing
      • some are good ideas with bad execution
      • examples:
        • laptopia
        • to smoke a cigar
        • revoluton cyclewear
        • snotips
        • on and on
  • You don’t have to broadcast your failures
    • make them count
    • get there fast: or fail fast
    • learn from everything
    • be purposeful about what you learn and how you describe
  • Success isn’t cashing out.
    • success is building some cool, learning amazing stuff
  • Questions to ask yourself
    • Is this for art?
      • Make sure it fits at least one specific need: if it kind of feels like art, kind of feels like it will make money, kind of feels like a hobby… it may do none of those things.
      • Make sure it really satisfies one of those categories.
    • Is this for money?
      • It’s OK. It doesn’t have to be, but that’s fine.
    • Is this for your career?
      • Get out there and make something. Let them know what you can do.
      • Maybe the first one sucks. That’s fine. Do five more. You’ll figure it out.
    • What does success look like?
      • Am I looking for a better job?
      • To get an opportunity that wasn’t there before?
      • To gain notoriety?
      • Build momentum: one project alone might not get you there, but a series of them will.
    • Be Creative
      • Will It Blend? 
        • You can’t help but know about this blender, even though a blender is one of the most boring appliances around.
    • Talk to everyone you know
      • Learn to weed out bad ideas early
  • Questions?
    • Paleo Diet site: cost about $1200 to get site up. includes consultant fee to the primary expert on it, the wordpress plugin, an search adwords guy
    • Q: favorite way to prototype?
      • A: I’m an information architect. I make a lot of wireframes and specs. I work in person with people, people I know, and can work closely with. Most of my projects are simple enough that a couple of wireframes and specs is enough.
    • Q: the sites you sold: was that an email out of the blue or what?
      • A: we knew the competitor from the beginning, he was happy to help us in the beginning, and let us know over and over that he was willing to buy the site.
      • A: we had a lot of calls from guys who wanted to the backend from us, and eventually a guy called who knew what he wanted to do with it and was willing to pay.

rethinking the link
Ward Cunningham
  • Ward is the inventor of the wiki: the Portland Pattern Repository. 
  • What they’ve implemented in Ruby on Rails and Javascript
  • What is a link?
    • Something to click that takes you somewhere
    • a relation to resources : Ray Fielding (inventor of the wiki)
  • is a link that goes where broken?
    • Not necessarily: as wiki proved
    • so Ray Fielding says a link is “a relation to resources, possibly zero”
  • wiki turns the zero case into an invitation
    • a link that doesn’t go anywhere is an invitation to author that topic.
    • wikipedia wisely color coded the link: a red link doesn’t go anywhere, a blue one does.
      • It’s pretty hard to find a red link these days on wikipedia: it’s been so successful that virtually every topic has been written about.
  • bringing the state of destination page to the link avoided the dreaded “under construction” on to-be-developed pages.
  • two kinds of links
    • internal links: essentially a query to see if the page exists
    • external links: aren’t checked
    • it means every page is dynamic: even if you don’t expect the page itself to change, the state of the links can change.
  • extending the wiki color code
    • blue link means one (links to exactly one place)
    • red link means zero (nothing there, we have to write it)
    • orange link means many (have to choose)
  • there are 30,000 disambiguation pages on wikipedia.
    • there are people whose whole contribution to wikipedia is disambiguating terms
  • happy collision / happy accident
    • originally wiki (Portland Pattern Repository) was 30,000 pages on a single topic: how to go about doing computer programming
    • a happy collision is when you write a WikiWord expecting to see a question mark (indicating that the page wasn’t written), but it is a blue link (the topic is already written about.)
  • sister sites
    • pretty early on, other sites on related topics started up.
    • “let’s share our names”
  • what is the Japanese word for “glitch”?
  • social jargon
    • part one: you have a glossary of words you use: not every word, but words you use that not everyone knows, but you want them to know.
    • part two: your writing automatically links to words in your glossary. (no special brackets or action needed)
    • part three: your readers learn your words automatically
    • part four: your words spread friend to friend as they are used
      • when someone else uses a word, it gets added to their glossary
  • social jargon is a feature of
  • AboutUs:
    • Community generated content about domains: an expanded version of whois.
    • People don’t want to write encyclopedia articles
    • So they focus on micro-summaries. A single sentence.
  • The purpose of social jargon is to add precision to concise summaries:
    • Example: “JiveSoftware moves its HQ from Portland to the Bay Area”. 
    • What do they mean by Portland? Portland Oregon? Portland Maine? Portland Cement? By detecting it and disambiguating on the fly with a glossary, then others can know that Portland, Oregon is meant.
  • It allows people to be casually precise. In a world where we want to write less and have it mean more.
  • is it important? are names important?
    • “The dominating feature in the [energetic neutral atom Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) all-sky maps] at low energies is the hydrogen, helium, and oxygen interstellar gas flow.
      • super long noun: many words used to achieve full precision. 
    • it’s a natural human feature to compress and utilize context to fill in the gaps. 
    • context, adjectives, and syntax are all normally used to help achieve precision…
      • context: “it was a dark and stormy night”
      • adjectives: “energetic neutral atom”
      • syntax: “meeting @ward at #wv2010”
    • interaction helps:
      • “By wiki, did you mean Portland Pattern Repository or collaborative software?”
  • Give it a try on
  • The future of writing
    • Wikipedia has had a tremendous impact on writing.
      • And a tremendous impact on linguistics who have something to study that is properly licensed and has a full history.
    • Texting trend: short messages
    • Social trend: context for everything.
      • We want to use the computer and language in a way similar to our colleagues and friends. 
    • Tapping trend: favors choosing over typing. (e.g. better to write something short, and be able to choose the precision than to have to write something long and precise using an iPhone keyboard.)
  • Impact…
    • accelerated evolution of language: it will be easier for new words and concepts to propagate rapidly.
    • specialize language used freely: when you find that existing words don’t work, you’ll make up new words
    • hard to read offline: you’ll be able to read further from your comfort zone because you’ll be able to look up words as you go.

I’m at Web Visions 2010, the Design Conference in Portland, Oregon. I attended only once before in 2009. Compared to last year, the conference feels much smaller: perhaps half as big as last year. The conference also seems more focused on design. In 2009, I recalled more sessions on social media, analytics, business, and technology.

I love design, don’t get me wrong, but I think I liked it more when there was a greater variety of topics. I’m not a full time designer, although I do have design aspects to my work. But I also have social computing, startup, and business aspects to what I do.

I’m very curious about the factors that went into the change in size and focus.