ARCHIVE: January, 2008

Intro to Social Design Podcast

For those of you who listen to podcasts and are interested in social design, here’s an option: Alex Barnett and Ted Haeger (the Bungee Connect folks) recently interviewed me about my take on social design. Long-time Bokardoans might remember me doing a series of podcasts a couple years ago with Alex, who was at Microsoft at the time. I’m happy to say that he’s now even more into podcasting. He always was a great host…ready at a moment’s notice with an insightful question.

Here’s the show post.

Here’s the RSS Feed (love the name of it) The Bungee Line.

Here’s the mp3: Social Design Interview (47min, 22MB)

The interview was part of a series that Ted and Alex are doing for Bungee Labs. They’re stretching out the role of the new community manager, who serves to not only help out with the community but also helps to lead the discussion in and around it. I think this will become a common model going forward.

Anyway, I’m honored to be part of their series…

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8 Things you didn’t know about me

I often visit blogs and wish there was more information about the blogger there. Some blogs don’t even have a picture of the person writing! (hint: you can’t go wrong with a picture of yourself smiling). Even so, I don’t have much about myself here on Bokardo. So in the spirit of making up for that, I’m picking up on a meme sent to me by Leisa. Here are 8 things you didn’t know about me. I’m going to add them to my about page when I’m done.

So here they are…

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The Power of a Bruised Ego

Wy wife and I were recently doing some online shopping together. We were looking for lamps for our living room. My wife was the one at the controls, and at one point she got frustrated and said “This web site really sucks. I can’t even look at their furniture.”

I had mixed feelings about my wife’s comment. My shopper side was completely with her. The web site did suck. It was hard to look at furniture. My designer side, however, felt a pang of empathy for the poor designers who probably worked really hard building this.

This situation reminded me of the reality TV shows where they do house makeovers. On one that I remember watching, a couple was having a hard time selling their house. They had open house after open house, yet nobody was making an offer.

So the crafty real estate agent (as part of the show) decided to video tape the next open house. They taped people as they walked through the house, catching all the little comments that couples make to each other out of earshot of the realtor. This was just like the comments my wife and I were making to each other about the web site.

The raw comments were astounding. “This room is fugly”. “I hate these curtains…what a horrible sense of style”. Not only did people attack the style of the house, they attacked the people who were responsible, the house owners!

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Personas as Tools

Yesterday’s piece on personas wasn’t really about personas as much as it was about tools. Every tool you use has benefits and drawbacks and as a designer you need to choose the best tool for the job.

It turns out that lots of designers choose to use personas to help them communicate their research with other members of the project. Even if personas aren’t optimal (and I think its safe to say they’re not optimal, otherwise we wouldn’t be having this discussion) they can still be a world of good in certain situations.

But some designers might never use them, and still be successful. I personally don’t use personas, but I can imagine a day when I might need them. That’s the way with tools. Some cabinet makers might plane their cabinet faces with a hand planer, while others might use the huge electric floor planer. Some might go back and forth depending on the situation. Either way, the cabinet face gets planed and the job finished.

Obviously, though, the discussion about personas is pretty heated. Why is that? Well, I think its because as designers we always have doubt that the way we’re doing research might not be the best way…there is always more we can learn about the people we design for. I think we simply have to accept that, and prioritize our research so that we are at least confident we’re hitting the main pain points in our design.

I’ve found in general that if we think about things as tools that its easier to take our emotion out of it. If we think about software as a tool to get stuff done, it’s a lot easier to design because we can objectively say whether or not it is succeeding.

So the answer to the personas business is that if your design turned out well with personas, then you should try them again. If it turned out well without personas, then that’s good too. It’s very possible that your cabinet will still hold glasses, no matter how you built it.

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Personas and the Advantage of Designing for Yourself

What are personas good for?

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North Shore Web Geek Meetup: Feb 7 in Newburyport, MA

Earlier this month we held our first North Shore Web Geek Meetup here in Newburyport, MA, USA. It was amazingly cold. Still, we had 30 or so folks from the area show up and it was great. We even had two folks from Providence! come: Adam Darowski and Michelle Riggen-Ransom. (they won prizes for coming the farthest)

So, back by popular demand, we’re doing it again: a North Shore Web Geek Meetup on February 7 in Newburyport, MA.

This time we’re doing a new venue: The Grog. The Grog is a great spot a bit closer to Market Square. They have good food, good beer, and will not force us out of their place with a band like Rosie’s did. In fact, I’ve reserved a private area with its own bar so we should be all set. They know we’re coming this time.

And, while Jeff won’t be there to hand out Leopard disks, we will have prizes. Haven’t decided on the criteria for winning yet, though. I want everyone to be able to win.

Here are the details:

Date: Thursday, February 7, 2008
Place: The Grog (see map)
Start: ~6-7pm
Ends: ~9-10pm

Travel tips:

  • By Car: Downtown Newburyport is ~3 miles off of Interstate 95, so it’s very easy to find and fast to get into/out of by car. (this ain’t the city)
  • Commuter Rail: Newburyport is at the end of the commuter rail…if we have any folks coming on the 5:36 or the 6:15 we’ll do a pick up (the train station is about a mile away from the pub) (commuter rail schedule)

If you have any questions/comments/concerns, feel free to contact me.

NOTE: The last venue (Rosie’s) and the new venue (The Grog) are just down the street from each other.

View Larger Map

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Fifty Two Percent

In this New York Times piece Putting Buyers First? What a Concept (hat tip Mark Hurst), author Joe Nicera, while describing a positive experience with the company, drops an absolutely astounding number:

52% of people who shop online do product research at

And, perhaps even more amazing is that what those shoppers are going for isn’t even provided by Amazon: customer reviews. Nope, much of the valuable information on the site is provided by other people who write reviews, describe their experiences, and help others watch out for bad products.

That’s the power of social interaction. While we probably listen to the people selling us products some of the time, what we’re really interested in is what other people like us have to say.

Unbiased, unvarnished, authentic voices. Are you designing for them?

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Connect: A Guide to a New Way of Working (book review)

Hi Everybody. My name is Josh. I’m a web worker.


I recently got the chance to review Connect: A Guide to a New Way of Working by my friend Anne Zelenka, who is the editor at large at Web Worker Daily, a blog focused on people who work on the web. Here follows my review of the book.

First, the verdict: Highly recommended. Connect is an excellent guide to working on the web, offering an comprehensive overview of all the things to think about and consider if you’re working from home or your job happens to be primarily web-based. I would recommend it to anybody who wants to improve their productivity. In addition to covering all the aspects of web work, Anne also throws in some psychology that underpins a lot of what web workers do, noting that it can be lonely and myopic place at times while giving out a raft of ideas on how to cope.

But I’ve also written up some more thoughts in case you want to know more about why I like it…

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