New York Times- Article Skimmer

The New York Times has released a prototype of a new way to access their articles: The Article Skimmer

Down the left hand side are the topics that you can choose from and on the right is the content with teasers for each article.

It definitely has a magazine feel and seeing the content laid out this way is a nice change.

The only thing obviously missing is the date the article was published, giving you an idea of how often content is recycled through.

The write up on the Article Skinner mirrors the experience of using it to “Sunday browsing”- laying out your paper on the coffee table to take in as much content as possible.

I wonder if this means that the Article Skimmer will only be used for Sunday’s edition?

Credit Crisis Visualised

A fantastic video explaining the Credit Crisis. What is a complex topic is explained clearly in an engaging narrative.

It was made by Jonathon Jarvis as part of his thesis for a media design program.

Check it out: The Crisis of Credit Visualized

Geeks are Creatives too

I was reading an article How to Manage Geeks. A friend sent it to me, probably because I work with a team of developers.

I am not sure how I feel about the word “geek”. As a kid, it was insult, but now it’s a term used widely about amongst the “geek” community to describe themselves. If used appropriately, it’s no longer derogatory. Times they sure have changed!

I don’t consider myself a geek, but I suspect to someone outside of the “IT world”, a product manager building online web applications is a pretty geeky profession! (The truth is that I love my job, so maybe I am a geek…)

Anyway I wasn’t sure what to expect reading the article, whether is was a joke or serious, but it was the real deal- a true “How To” on the dos and don’ts of managing a “geek”.

I am writing about this because one of these “How Tos” really stood out for me- #10 Remember that geeks are creative workers.

I think quite often in website or application development, it’s easily forgotten how much design is required by software engineers to give life to the specification documents and the designs that accompany them.

Whether you are creating something for the first time or extending an existing product- the engineer needs to think about the problem holistically and design a solution that meets the specifications and looks and works like the design while ensuring it’s a solid build with minimal bugs.

Through this design process they also need to feed back to the team any suggestions for revising the specifications or design based on technical constraints or suggestions for improvements.

This technical design phase is critical to the success of any project.

So I do agree- give the “geek” a creative environment to work and allow them the time and freedom to design their software as allowing for this will only result in better products, websites and applications.

Take your ego out of the job

I just read this article on Joel Cohen, a writer and producer from The Simpsons. The article talks about the creative culture and innovation required to keep The Simspons fresh considering they’ve made over 400 episodes now.

What stuck out for me was his comment– “Take your ego out of the job

In innovative and design lead organisations there are often so many smart creative people trying to solve problems that sometimes you’ll find your ideas and concepts being dismissed.

As everyone, we’ve all felt that sting of being shot down when we really thought we were onto something. Sitting in a brainstorming session, spiting out our brilliant idea to only find it being quickly passed over or even worse, slightly considered and then passed over with the next suggestion. Ouch!

Cohen suggests that this happens because “Not every great idea is the right great idea“.

To survive in a creative environment you have to leave your ego at home.  You can not let ego or hurt feelings come into play or you won’t make it. You probably love working with your colleagues because they are smart and talented and ironically it’s those characteristics which creates the reality where their ideas are chosen instead of yours.

However, if you are good at your job, for every idea that is dismissed I guarantee another one will be picked up. Just be prepared that your idea belongs to everyone so it’s going to be massaged and amended with team and management input. That’s just the way it goes and quite often with collaboration the outcome is far superior then had it only been worked on by you.

SearchMe

I came across a cool new search engine today- www.searchme.com

I have seen a lot of new search engines over the years, but this one has stuck out for me because the interface is like browsing through your iphone or touch looking for new albums.

To help you find what you’re looking for, categories are presented with each search, which allow you to refine your results. If you click on the little arrow at the bottom you’ll be presented with description of the pages, so you don’t have to click on each site to see what it’s all about. Also, the speed of results seems to be fast and pretty accurate as I was able to find what I was looking for for each time I searched.

So far, the only problem I had was that it didn’t support Safari yet.

It’s only in beta, but I wonder if it’s got a chance against Google as it’s going for a new type of search experience- something visual and fun.

If it does take off, web designers beware as people like pretty things and will probably be drawn to clicking  on sites that attract them.  It gives even more reason to try and get into the mind of your audience- not only do you have to think of keywords that will attract your users, but you will also have to consider how your visual design impacts your users desire to click through from search engines.  Very cool.

How do you start your development projects?

The starting point- it’s different for every project and often it’s not where you thought it would be.

A project can start because there is a business requirement or a user need. Either way,  I have found over the years, it doesn’t matter how big or small your project is, there always needs to apply a business analysis layer to it.

I say this, as people on a project team, especially the solution design team, need to understand the who, what, when, where and why if they are to deliver an excellent outcome.

Quite often it’s the why that ends up being the most important factor as you really need to get in there and understand what the problem is before you can solve it.

I don’t think you’ll ever regret taking the time at the start of a project to dig into the questions,  allowing yourself to develop a well structured problem before diving into developing a solution.

I read an interesting article today on the Six Secrets of Top-notch Business Analysts.
Having worked with many BAs and as one myself with multifaceted teams,  this article resonated well with me.

Check it out here

A reminder of how creative the world really is

Nokia recently ran a project where they went to Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro, and Accra and set up studio spaces and asked people to draw their ideal mobile phone.

Is this all part of Nokia’s user-generated innovation program where they seek input from users about what they should put in their product roadmaps.

My personal favourites are Sam, an artist from Accra and Roberto from Rio.

Check out some of the designs here

Design Strategy

Everyone in business is a designer. The role of a designer is to solve problems, whether you’re designing a poster, a website, or a product- all of these things have been created because there was a need for them. The poster was needed to sell a dvd, the website to sell books and the product because we needed a chair to sit on.

Before each item was designed, the designer would have been presented with the problem- I need to sell my dvd. Sometimes the solution phase is quick and easy and other times it’s more a iterative process and research is conducted to fully understand the requirements. Every situation is different, but the design/problem solving processes are always there.

Problem solving is done by all areas of business- customer care, accounting, marketing and sales. People in these roles need to be innovative and produce deliverables that give their company a competitive advantage and I am not sure these individuals consider themselves designers. I think they should and I think introducing an innovation culture and design principles into an organisation can help staff approach their day to day problems like designers typically do.
Today I came across a new MBA in Design Strategy from California College of the Arts. Hot! Now this looks interesting. The idea is to train leaders who can help integrate design processes and creative thinking into businesses. The program only takes 30 students a year and the two year tuition looks like it’ll be well over $60,000K; not cheap. Take a look at the syllabus:First Year

  • Business Models & Stakeholders
  • Design/Innovation Studio
  • Effective Communication
  • Leadership & Entrepreneurship
  • Managerial Accounting
  • Managerial Economics
  • Operations/Systems
  • Products, Services & Experiences Studio

Second Year

  • Law & Intellectual Property
  • Managerial Finance
  • Market Insight Studio
  • Strategic Management
  • Sustainability Studio
  • Venture Project Studio
  • Electives

So for those of us who can not afford $60k + living costs + loss of income- we have got to take into our own hands. Upskill ourselves and look for careers in organisations that are design lead. Those jobs are out there, I have had the opportunity to work for some and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Interesting article on Faceted Feature Analysis

The facets refer to three characterizing facets in any project (or release): business value, ease of implementation, and user value.

You compare these against the three constraints that govern every project (or release): cost, time, and quality.

“By crossing the characterizing facets with constraints, you are combining the subjective needs of the project stakeholders with the objective constraints of the project in a way that ensures all points of view are fairly considered. It also ensures that a project requirement is not included or excluded simply because one person yelled louder than the others”

http://www.boxesandarrows.com/view/faceted-feature