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Showing posts from 2008

Feeling Grateful For The Holidays

From Denali Excursion

I have a secret which I'm not proud of... I have been spending the past couple of weeks booking hours, working. Even on Christmas Eve. It's not by choice! If it were up to me I'd be hanging out on a cheap beach somewhere in Mexico. Anyway, I can't complain especially when I read/listen to the news. Just feeling grateful during the holidays.

Studioroom.com Domain for Sale?

I couple of weeks ago I was talking to an Angel investor, a VC guy, about stuff. He said Studioroom is a great name, valuable because "you just can't get simple, clear, memorable domains like these easily". Who knew that "Studioroom" has some value?! Cool!

Who would want Studioroom? Artists, musicians, actors, DJs, designers, videographers etc. A whole network? A social network? A news site focusing on art?

So... yes, I will sell Studioroom.com for the right price. Please contact design(at)studioroom.com with reasonable offers.

Shopping for A Husband? Talkeetna Bachelor Auction

I wish I could buy men like I buy shoes. Grab a cute pair, wear 'em out, and throw 'em away! . . . Oh wait, I can!

Before it's too late grab your tickets to Alaska RIGHT NOW and head to the frontier where REAL MEN still exist. This weekend is the 28th annual Talkeetna Bachelor Auction and Ball. This promises to be the most fun anywhere. And it's way more than just some lousy excuse to get drunk and flirt with guys, it's practically a music festival. You heard me, the best live music in the west, all packed into one weekend, in a really cool place called Talkeetna.

With a weekend loaded with music, fun, and men for sale, do you really want to hang out at the mall? Check it out:



More info: www.bachelorsoftalkeetna.org

Touring Baltimore Rehab Houses - Photos

I've been dreaming about houses. It's a mystery how many beautiful old victorians stand vacant in Baltimore when it lies just an hour up the road from Washington DC. Sure this is an old rust belt city but it's not like Detroit, it's close to Philadelphia and New York, there's a lot going on. We have Michael Phelps and Ace of Cakes, a symphony, opera, and one of the biggest ports in the USA. So how come there are hundreds (perhaps thousands) of vacant houses in Baltimore?

I explored a few rehabs last weekend in an attempt to learn if they are worth it, I'm sharing some thoughts and photos here with you. I looked at 10 different houses from a 7 bedroom mansion-townhouse in Reservoir Hill (for $200k) to a small but charming house actually in a good neighborhood, Mount Vernon (also for 200k). These homes however are in fairly bad neighborhoods and are as cheap as it gets.

North Avenue Nomansland for $60k
From Baltimore Rehabs Pt.1

From Baltimore Rehabs Pt.1For seeming…

Does Technology Weaken Everyday Real Life Experience?

Example no. 1 - The Grocery Store
The Giant grocery store near my house has a bunch of those automatic checkouts where you scan, and ring up all your own purchases and even bag your own stuff too. While Giant might be saving some money from these machines replacing people, I wonder why this is good? It's certainly not an improved experience for me as a shopper. Compare this with Eddie's around the corner where they unload your basket for you, ring you up with a smile, and will carry your bags out to your car. Hands down Eddie's wins more of my dollars just for better customer experience.

Here's the article inspiring this blog post:
Stores Count Seconds to Trim Labor Costs
I can't think of worse customer experience than this. Food is supposed to be a happy social experience. Why would any retailer actively destroy the fun already in shopping?

Example no. 2 - A Walk in the Park
Simple things have become overly complicated thanks to another kind of technology. The automob…

Don't Hate Me Because I'm Not in New York

I recently finished a successful business trip to San Francisco and I want to remind everyone that, while I don't live in New York, I can and do travel to New York, and places further away, ALL THE TIME. So yeah, I don't live in New York. I had every intention of settling into New York city when I moved back east this spring, but it didn't happen. Since I never ever want to rent again, I'm not really worried about it. I am in Baltimore, also known as "the Washington DC Area"... Also known as the only metropolitan area in the country who's economy never gets that bad because of the big employer here who never goes out of business.

I feel like an idiot for having to write this but enough already with DC and Baltimore bashing! Stop being a location hater! I hate it that LinkedIn and other job websites filter me out of talent seaches just because of where I live. It shouldn't matter, I work on the internet and I should live wherever I choose!

Since I'v…

BBC Radio 1 Website Has Great FREE Music and No Advertising

Since we are all looking for free entertainment this weekend I thought I'd share this, I am sooo loving the BBC Radio 1 online. All this great content for FREE. Is there anything comparable to the BBC in the United States? Check it out, all this free internet radio, from rocking beats to experimental rhymes. As somebody who's designed a few music pages in my day I'm surprised by the lack of advertising on their website. How can they do that? Isn't that like, forbidden or something? Just goes to show that the editors across the pond want to promote the best music.

The Wisdom of Experience

I wish everybody involved in building websites, everyone, to take a look at this presentation from Agile 2008. This presentation basically explains how the whole process should work, and why. It's too revealing to summarize, you just just have to check it out.

The Wisdom of Experience
by Alan Cooper

http://www.cooper.com/journal/agile2008/

OK fine here's a quote,
"No competent business person would choose speed over correctness if they had confidence in the outcome. "

Thanks.

How is That a Sport?

Every four years a phrase is uttered from living rooms and bars across the USA. It's the Olympics, and along with the spectacle and grandeur are few questions about what constitutes a "real" sport. Comments like, "Where's the skill in that?" and "Look, he's got a gut" are exchanged, and of course, "How is that a sport?"

Here are the most questionable sports, from a broad panel of Baltimoreans:
- Badminton? Hello! Tennis people.
- Synchronized diving? Isn't just "diving" enough?
- Rhythmic gymnastics? What's the deal with the ribbons?
- Target shooting? You don't DO anything, you shoot a gun, how is that a sport?
- Beach Volleyball? In those bikinis? This just can't be taken seriously.

I myself am not a sports fanatic. I'm just happy to be entertained by the great big show that is the Olympics. Leave a comment about the Olympic sports you find questionable!

For UI Simplicity Rules

One of the biggest trends on the web for 2008 is the reign of simplicity. Over the past few months, some of the biggest websites have revamped their site design, opting for sophisticated but simple over gratuitous graphical bloat. Stripped away are the blends and visual effects, replaced with meaningful information, helpful text, and thoughtful interactions. It seems as if some of the best practices in user centered design are finally getting through to people.

Facebook launched a new "cleaner, simpler design". They say, “We’ve made the changes... in order to highlight the most recent and relevant information that users value, give users even more control and ownership over their profiles and simplify the user experience,” said Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

And a couple month's back MySpace launched a design update, one of many, which they are working on with Adaptive Path.

My personal favorite new design is the BBC website. Launched in April after an open beta,…

Forcing Inspiration

It's been a few weeks since I've written anything in my blog and so I've decided to force some inspiration. I do this for work all the time right? I sit down and design internet detritus for random clients, every day, so why can't I just force inspiration on myself?

"Force" is a bit harsh, I should use "process"... let's go.

Researching "inspiration" on Google uncovers:
- Way too many utterly useless search marketing pages
- Christian references
- Women's fitness
- "Forgiveness"
- Inspiring Quotes
- A couple of blogs (I like http://www.wdydwyd.com/ )

A couple clicks and I get to the wikipedia post on Artistic Inspiration. All this is very interesting, but I'm not waiting for divine truth to compel me.

Isn't the entire internet, potentially, a source of inspiration? But there's something intrinsically wrong here trying to find inspiration online. I'm staring at a screen, but it's sunny outside. Plus I'm overw…

Alaska is a Frontier

I used to think that frontiers didn't exist anymore. That man had gone and tamed every place, everywhere. Especially in the United States, but I was wrong.

Here are some important facts about modern frontier life:
1. People have the Internet but it's slow and just not that important.
2. Being successful means you have heat & electricity in your home all year round.
3. Dogs are home security - ski pulling - bed warming - friends.
4. You fish for FOOD, not fish for photos.
5. Alaska time is "whenever" time. Mother nature is in control of your time more than anyone or anything.
6. Being affluent means you have a lot of high powered rifles and gas guzzling trucks.
7. There really are a lot more men than women.
8. Fresh vegetables are imported.
9. Personal freedom is sung about in bars, more than talked about.
10. Most people are Republicans, but in Talkeetna they are Democrats.

Frida Kahlo

I think the Fida Kahlo show was the best major Art exhibit I have ever seen. Better than Murakami or even better than her contemporary Salvadore Dali.


Although I knew a lot about Kahlo, I had seen the movie, and studied some of her work in school, for some reason I had never actually seen any of her paintings in person. I'd seen her husband's stuff (Diego Rivera) but not hers. What surprised me most about seeing her paintings was the strong emotional response I had to her work. Most of the artwork, I realized, were stories without words. Deeply personal and touching.

As with all art, a reproduction will never show the quality you'll see (or feel) if you look at it with your own eyes. If you missed this show in Philadelphia then it would actually be worth the trip to San Francisco to check it out.
Frida Kahlo at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Through September 28th 2008.

Frida Kahlo
Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (Autorretrato con collar de espinas y …

Greetings from Where the Sun Doesn't Set

I'm traveling now through the end of July in Alaska. Here's the first batch of photos from the wilderness.

The Denali Excursion
http://picasaweb.google.com/ssawchenko/DenaliExcursion
Denali Excursion


In and around Talkeetna, AK
http://picasaweb.google.com/ssawchenko/AlaskaIndependence
Alaska Independence

If you're in Alaska this July come visit me!

Enjoy!

An Overly Complicated and Elaborate System of Ownership and Rules - Cities & Feaudalism

A couple of weeks ago I was in New York interviewing for a job. Currently I'm living with my sister in Baltimore for free. As I was interviewing I started to explore what it would mean to get an apartment up in New York. The day of my interview I ran into an old classmate from college and who's now a real estate agent. When I told him I wanted help finding an apartment, and that I wanted to pay no more than $2000/month, he brushed me off saying "oh that's way to low I don't work with people like you". I don't think he meant to be mean... he was just looking out for himself.

So there I was yet AGAIN staring down the prospect of paying too much rent, for too little space, for who knows how long. Probably handing over a third of my income to some self interested stranger just so I can go to work in New York City. Reality was sinking in fast. I don't think I can afford New York. Not emotionally, not financially, not now.

In history classes I learned about…

A Good Bad Feeling

It's June 1st and I'm sitting outside working on my tan blissfully removed from all human contact. I cannot hear anything, no conversations or cars. No beeps or rings from anything. No motorized gardening tools. Just the bugs and the breeze. My friend's West Virginia farm (where I happen to be) is like the Garden of Eden, not for years have I had this much solitude and peace. But if I'm in heaven, then why do I feel so bad?

My only link to the outside, the Sunday Washington Post, sits at my feet reminding me of The Rest of The World. This, I think, is the biggest social network in these parts. What do all the people around here actually do for fun? Hunt? Barbecue? Drink beer on their front porches? Drive trucks? Is that culture? I resumed tanning.

Earlier, grocery shopping at the nearest market 20 minutes away, I have never in my life seen so many pork products. I had no idea you could buy bacon in 20 lb cases. There are foam containers holding little cakes of made of …

Takashi Murakami at the Brooklyn Museum

Blog confessional #1 I don't like anime, I don't like manga. This is very uncool, I know, but there's something about these genres which is just annoying. Perhaps it's the bad writing, the usually offensive depiction of female characters, or maybe I've never seen any good ani-manga.



Photo by Collin David, originally posted on Collectorsquest.com

Confession #2, it was the Louis Vuitton that got me into the Brooklyn Museum to see the Murakami show. Takashi Murakami had collaborated with the LV to create some fabulous limited edition bags and accessories which I needed to see! So off I went. Once I was there I found the actual show to be exceptional and full of surprises. Sure I liked all the stylistically cute characters, of course I loved all the candy like colors... you can never go wrong with pink and purple on platinum. I was surprised at how sophisticated and grown up a lot of the work is. I'm not so sure you want to bring your kids to this one unless you wan…

How Do I Design? What is My Design Process

Recently, I read this article about the Future of Web Design. It made me laugh (read final comment below). The most common question I always get, in one form or another is "How do you design something?". Since I usually design dynamic, interactive websites, my answer is to describe the web product design process.

Design IS a Process
Web product design is a process of refinement involving traditional design skills, merged with web development techniques. Web design is the balance of information and technology tailored to the right audience. And of course all websites should be adaptable, all web design teams should be very comfortable with the idea of evolutionary change, and build it into their business. You need to design it - try it - evaluate it - change it - and test it again and again. Always.
When Problems Happen
In my experience problems happen not in design but in the management of the design & development process. I can't tell you how many times I've worked …

Freelancing Part 1 - How Much to Charge?

Lately I've been freelancing a lot which has been great. I love the flexibility and control I have over my own time. I'm so busy, however it's hard to just manage that time. But my biggest worry is negotiating the right rate.

In order to figure out the right rate I asked several friends & colleagues for their insight. It's interesting to compare what they said:

Susan pointed me to this article which offers a calculation of freelance rates based on what you would be making if you were getting a salary. According to this I should be making between $90-120/hour. Calculating Your Freelance Rates - Part 1

A friend spoke more about Stock options. Since I work with a lot of start-up companies this is relevant. They are always trying to figure out creative ways to pay employees which I find does NOT work especially if you have overhead. He says, "...They should be indifferent between paying you in cash versus stock- perhaps they are trying to "get a deal" from…

Believe it! Busy in Baltimore

This week, whilst crashing at Fran's in Baltimore I'm super busy. Would you believe I have a ton of freelance? It feels GREAT to finally be free from an office, truly independent, and best of all not paying rent. Hooray!

I'm sooooo busy I probably wont be posting any more this week. OK maybe some Radar posts see the nifty picture window on the side. Next week it's my first foray back up to New York City where I'll be talking to some peeps and scouting out new work.

The New UI - Part 1 - Inside The Art

I always felt like so much more could be done in interaction design than what we're doing now. I always feel like corporations are really too cheap to invest in the design research to get to place of real innovation in software product design. There was a fantastic article in this weekend's NYT about new interaction models...

Coming Soon: Nothing Between You and Your Machine
...“The old paradigm is breaking down,” said Paul Mercer, senior director of software at Palm Inc. “It used to be that you needed to be a visionary and technologist like Michelangelo, but we’re turning that corner.”INDEED, the more powerful graphics-oriented software has spilled over into the creation of palettes for a new generation of software-oriented artists. One new programming language, Processing, is an extension of Sun’s Java designed specifically for students, artists, designers, researchers and hobbyists who are interested in programming images, animations and interactions. It has been used extensi…

An Informational Spring Cleaning with Bookmark Surprises

So I just moved back to the east coast after living in San Francisco for 13 years. (SF is great but I got sick of the cold fog, the greed, and the overpriced rents) For the first time in years my email inbox is quiet. You'd think I'd be happy about that, but I miss the attention. I think I'm now receiving more spam mail than friend mail. Sigh. While I'm waiting for my stuff to complete it's trip east, I'm left with my trusty old powerbook, and nothing much to do but get organized.

First the email. Fortunately I switched to web based email a couple years ago, which makes things simpler. Like a tyranical queen of the digital domain I deleted EVERYTHING out of the Yahoo! mail account. Who needs Yahoo? Apparently Microsoft! Next, I tackled my gmail problem, slashing archived mail like a Bazilian Rainforest. For christ sake why am I so open??!!

Next comes the pandoras box of bookmarks. Over the years I've saved sets of bookmarks, from many different work computers…

How to Slash Your Operating Expenses MOVE AWAY From Silicon Valley

Studioroom has relocated to the East Coast. We are temporarily set up in the Washington DC area while we update the website and explore opportunities. Since we slashed our expenses to a tenth of what we were paying in San Francisco, we can afford to travel to you! Please don't hesitate to contact us for any of your interaction design and user experience design needs. design@studioroom.com

The Future of Interaction Design - What if MySpace was a 3D Space?

I have just seen the future of interaction design and here it is: Head Tracking for Desktop VR Displays using the WiiRemote



This presentation shows quite simply how a flat 2D screen can be transformed into a window into a 3D world. Although this demo is based on the Wii and it's unique controllers, you can see how this technology can be adapted for broader use. Watch this video, then imagine all the ways that this interface can be used. E commerce? Someday I will be able to shop for shoes in 3D! Social Networks? What if Hot or Not was in 3D? or Match.com. Oh the possibilities!

I Love The New Like.com

I am pleased to announce the all new for 2008 Like.com. This was a cool little redesign project I got to work on around Christmas. Like is a shopping search engine, which previously did not have a design targeted to it's intended audience, all us women! Now it does. It was a pleasure to work with Pedro Sostre, Like's Creative Director. We managed to come up with a new design that is fresh while still on target, and not a total web 2.0 cliche. The new brand developed easily translates into a great, functional, web UI with no rounded corners, reflections, or gradient over-use.

Check out the purple star!




IT'S ALIVE! - massify.com - A new Social Network for Movie Makers

Do you like making movies? Are you always playing with your video camera? Are you an actor, writer, or director? Are you an artist, musician, or fan of one? Heck, do you just want to do the HAIR for people in films? Well then, I have a new social network for you!

I'm very pleased to announce the launch of Massify.com, a new social network for people in movie and film production. I was just a small part of a larger team working on this new website project. I was wonderful to be able to contribute some Information Architecture and UX design work for this exciting start-up in New York City.



Undecided About The 2008 California Primary Election

I must admit that I am undecided about tomorrows Primary election. I spent the whole weekend trying to stay warm and absorb as much political propaganda as I could stand, without loosing all sanity. One moment, I find myself leaning towards Hillary. Then, I think perhaps Barack is better.

All I care about is that whatever Democrat is nominated, they must be able to beat the Republican candidate. Will Hillary be able to win over John McCain? Can Obama? Anyway, I'm blogging about this because I want YOU to help me make up my mind.

Barack vs. Hillary Pros and Cons

Hillary Clinton
Pro: She's a Clinton.
Con: She's a Clinton.
Pro: She can get stuff done "from day one".
Con: Yeah but is she really looking out for the interests of the people? Or is she already in the pockets of the corporations?
Pro: She's a woman.
Con: She might not beat John McCain because she's a woman.

Barack Obama
Pro: Fresh meat.
Con: Too fresh? Is Barack just too young and inexperienced?
Pro: The Ke…

SFMOMA Shows: Jeff Wall, Olafur Eliasson, Gabriele Basilico

Tired of being stuck inside by the weather, I went to go check out some art, and was pleasantly surprised. I actually like some of the shows at the San Francisco MOMA right now.

Not to be missed!
Take your time: Olafur Eliasson
One room makes you sleepy,
and one room makes you small,
and the room next to the elevators
has absolutely no color at all...

Read the SFMOMA write up, or just go see it yourself.

- - -

Gabriele Basilico
Wonderful photography of San Francisco & Silicon valley. It's interesting how Basilico captured such 'classical' looking photos out of such a modern place.

SFMOMA says: This exhibition presents a series of nearly 50 black-and-white and color photographs taken by Basilico at the invitation of SFMOMA during a monthlong residency in the Bay Area last summer. Chronicling the impact of the technology boom on the region, this exhibition will be the first of an ongoing project focused on Silicon Valley, in which artists will document the area on film. Bas…

Updating Studioroom.com

Hello! This post is to let everybody know that I am in the process of updating my website, Studioroom.com. I will be posting a new and improved up to date portfolio within the next two weeks. I hope to get this done before February 3rd.

In the mean time, I'm going to continue to blog right here in Informational Geometry. Look for more humorous observations about life, and Steph's take on the California Primaries. Thanks.

Getting Out of Jury Duty

Suddenly I remembered the one and only reason for not registering to vote when I received my latest jury summons for the San Francisco court. I hate jury duty. It's not that I'm an anarchist or that I dont like looking at men in uniform. I simply cannot afford to do it, one doesn't get paid for their service to the court*.

The night before I tried to find creative ways to try to get myself out of jury duty. Like printing a huge penis on a t-shirt to wear to the court. I suspected this might not work the way I wanted, so instead I picked out my "I'm a woman and I vote" t-shirt, and wore that instead. Hey, an opinionated woman is a scary thing to a lot of people, even... especially in San Francisco.

10:30 am: There I was at 10:30am reporting for duty in room 307 of the Hall of Justice. They took names. I felt like a child. Damn why couldn't my last name start with the letter A?

10:45 am: And now for the video. How delightful, California sponsored bullshit t…

Oh God! Lyrica vs. Ecstasy

Here are a few fascinating news items which caught my attention this week and I wanted to share.

Guess which drug is illegal?
One deadens nerves, barely works, has foul side effects. The other helps you feel God
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Friday, January 18, 2008

As reported by the Washington Post and the Guardian, as far as PTSD alone is concerned, some docs already see MDMA as potentially life-saving, a true wonder drug, which might even be administered to all our traumatized U.S. soldiers. Which could be good news indeed, given how an estimated 24 million Americans suffer from PTSD, whereas only a fraction of that number claim to have fibromyalgia.

- - -
Um... how fucking broken and downright unfair is the entire banking system?

Baltimore Finds Subprime Crisis Snags Women
By JOHN LELAND Published: January 15, 2008
... Though women and men have roughly the same credit scores, the Consumer Federation of America found that women were 32 percent more likely to receive subprime loans than …

YouTube Interview Homework

A friend suggested I post the doc of my 'homework' from my recent interviews. Why not? Below is a google doc, cut and pasted into Blogger.

What would I do as Community UI Designer. Find 3 things on YouTube that I dont like for me as a user, what changes would I make (to fix those things I dont like).


Watching/Sharing Videos
Although comments & response are very entertaining it's annoying to see stupid or inappropriate comments. Being able to sort comments via "Show Comments" pulldown is useful, but I want YouTube to be intelligent and do some of that work for me.

Suggestions:
- Adding friends is difficult to discover as it is buried in the sharing functionality. That whole interaction needs to be elevated.
- Change "Comments and Responses" header to "Conversations" or . And show user's online status (if appropriate) within the "Conversation" area. Consider incorporating user thumbnails next to comments.
- Showing user's online…

Happy 2008

I was ready for the new year about a month ago. Not that 2007 didn't have it's wonderful moments, but I seem to have wasted too much time in 2007 doing a lot of useless crap, like using social networks. So I thought it was funny when at a party on new years I overheard a lady who works for Facebook talking about her job, "Because I sell Facebook apps I'm always installing them. Then as soon as I realize how lame they are I quickly remove them." Ha ha ha.

So big changes are afoot. The results from my poll are in and art/culture is the winner. Horay! Look for changes to this blog and studioroom.com over the next couple of weeks.