Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2009

Goodbye Zeros

Good bye Zeros. As a decade you sucked. You started off with a great personal loss for me, and turned into a big financial zero really quickly. Seemed like most of the decade was hijacked by backward, political & ideological systems that drove this country to the brink of collapse. Only good thing about you was the lessons you dealt forcing me to rely on myself more. I'm ready to forget about you now.

* mom died of cancer, lost all my savings in the tech bubble, 9/11, hurricanes and tsunamis, and a painful realization of how corrupt all the "systems" are that I'm supposed to depend on to live.

Nothing Says Merry Christmas Like HOT Artichoke Dip

I make this Hot Artichoke Dip every Christmas Eve... This year I'm trying it with an added teaspoon of habanero paste for extra hotness. I'll add a photo here very soon!

Ingredients
- 2 (13 3/4-ounce) cans artichoke hearts (drained & broken into smaller chunks)
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 cup packed freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
- 2-3 tablespoons habanero pepper paste (more or less to taste)
- 1 large garlic clove, mashed
- A few dashes of tobasco sauce
- A few cranks of fresh black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, stir well. Scrape into an oven proof dish, cover and bake for 40 minutes. Serve this savory dip HOT, with bagel chips, corn chips, crackers, bread... anything! Enjoy!

Stop and Think Before Crowdsourcing Your Design Work

Crowdsourcing is this new way to get really cheap design work done. By using the internet to 'source' a large group of people to check out your project, you can get designers to propose ideas to you in a 'contest' like system. Effectively, crowdsourcing creates a 'marketplace' for design work, but since one designer 'wins' a job, many more designers loose...

Here's a Wired magazine post explaining crowdsourcing and some issue facing designers (note, the comments are great):
Is Crowdsourcing Evil? The Design Community Weighs In

I DO think these sites are disruptively evil, and it's not because I don't think other organizations deserve affordable design. Crowdsourcing encourages cheapness and impatience from potential clients. These websites imply to clients that they'll get Saks like quality design work at Walmart prices, all at internet speed... but the design process doesn't actually work that way. Worse than marginalizing the design p…

Dear Spam

We've known each other for a while, even though you haven't seen me in years. I've been getting thousands of emails from you since 1999, please don't be angry with me that I haven't replied. I simply don't need my penis to be any bigger, nor do I need any pharmaceutical help in the bedroom, or bathroom, or anywhere. I'm not going bald, there's nothing in my life which needs fixing.

I've been ignoring your treaties of "help" so much now you are trying to find new ways to get at me. Through facebook, and twitter, and now my blog... The thing is, I have a spam proof wall around me, it's called Google. More precisely, it's called 'cloud computing'. You simply cannot reach me. You're just wasting your time. Give up.

Trying To Save All The Thanksgiving's To Come

Happy Thanksgiving!Please help Food Democracy Now fight Islam Siddiqui’s confirmation to the USDA. His Senate confirmation hearing is set for next week.About Islam Siddiqui...
During his career, Siddiqui spent over 3 years as a pesticide lobbyist, an Undersecretary at the USDA and a VP at CropLife. In defending Siddiqui, the White House has stated that he played a key role in helping establish the country’s first organic standards.6 What they neglect to mention, though, is that those original organic standards would have allowed irradiation, sewage sludge and GMOs to undermine organic integrity! The standards were so watered down that 230,000 people signed a petition for them to be changed, which they eventually were.7Fortunately, the organic community stopped Siddiqui and his cronies then, and we need your help now to do it again. If Siddiqui’s nomination is allowed to go through, then agribusiness will continue to control the seeds, the science, and the distribution of global food …

An Online Thanksgiving Recipe Round-Up

I'm one of those people who thinks, "if Thanksgiving dinner isn't amazing, then there's just no point!". So over the years I've roasted a few birds and made enough stuffings & sauces to be able to know a good recipe when I see it. Here I've compiled a list of my favorite recipes & sites for your Thanksgiving enjoyment.

1. Here is the recipe from Fine Cooking I've been making for the past 8 years (It's excellent):
A Thanksgiving Feast for Twelve By Michael Brisson
There are a lot of other great recipes on Fine Cooking.com.

2. We all love Jamie Oliver, and these holiday recipes are already making my mouth water:

3. Other good recipe sites are:
Saveur Magazine promises the "Ultimate Thanksgiving" - lots of options
Gourmet magazine's recipe site (Gourmet is closing, sigh)
Food TV has a stable of celebrity chefs - I love Emeril & Bobby Flay
La Cucina Italiana Magazine - I cannot understate how excellent this cooking magazine is
Marth…

Font Freedom - Typekit A Simple Type Solution for Websites

At first, when I heard about Typekit I was skeptical. I've practically made a career around being able to "optimize" text for the web. Now I can unlearn all of the technical, CSS rules I've been compelled to follow for over a decade! Now I have more freedom to focus on design! Typekit.com is one of these web based tools which is very simple and very useful for every designer. I just signed up for an account, and got a snippet of code which I can add to my web pages (I added the code to my blogger template).

Typekit works with your HTML & CSS. The service simplifies a coding technique which has already been around for years but probably isn't really accessible to graphic designers (because let's face it, what programmer is ever going to think about more than 4 fonts?). Best of all, it's reasonably priced starting at $25/year for 10GB of bandwidth (which should be plenty). In contrast, Adobe sells an enterprise level solution which is completely too…

Get Out of Jury Duty - More Info

Following up on my most popular post, here's how you can prevent yourself from even being called for jury duty in the 1st place. Over a year ago I moved from California to the east coast. But my CA driver's license doesn't expire until 2012, and I don't need to renew it. Since I'm planning on moving again I simply don't want to go through the hassle of going to the DMV. I did, however register to vote in my new state so I could vote for Obama. I thought registering to vote would trigger jury duty harassment, but so far I haven't heard from my local court, and I think I'm in the clear.

If you're like me, an independent contractor who never really gets paid for jury time, then you might want to make sure you never get called. So here's the scoop, but you may need to coordinate this with a move. (I'm not sure if you have to move out of state or just to a different locality, probably depends on how modern your state & localities are).

1. A mon…

What I Really Want to Tell United in Their Online Survey

Online surveys a good, but they are over-used as a cheap way to get user feedback. These surveys cannot be accurate simply by the "one size fit's all" type of design they utilize. There's never an opportunity in these multiple choice surveys for users to give details about their unique experience with a business. Why not actually talk to your customers?

What I really want to tell United in this survey which I found in my inbox this morning is... DON'T spam all your customers with a survey disguised as a contest. I would much rather have a guaranteed, small, mileage grant for completing a survey, than have the carrot of 100,000 frequent flier miles dangled in my face. The way I look at this, is there is no actual reason for me to complete this survey for United because there's no guarantee that I'll get anything for my time & thoughts. Not to mention the fact that every other airline conducts their surveys with similar contests. And on top of all of th…

Very Easy Content Management with Cushy CMS

I think I just found what could be the most ridiculously easy tool for web designers or anybody looking for a simple CMS solution to add to their site, Cushy CMS.

All you need to do is watch the short video of how it works on their home page which is very strait forward. I've already tested it out and I can't wait to share this with some clients.

Now if those geniuses at Cushy could make some easy RSS hooks into their Cushy CMS they can have a perfect product for web publishers.

Cheap Customer Feedback (Gavin Newsom)

There's a researcher's goldmine in the comments of news articles. Here's a screen grab of the top comments in the Gavin Newsom story on SFgate.com. It's better than reading the article.


How Do You Answer The Passion Question?

Help me get the word Passion out of the office and back into the bedroom where it belongs!

Have you ever been in a job interview, which you thought was going great, only to get sidelined with the question, "What are you really passionate about?!" Perhaps it's because I'm a designer (I can't imagine an Doctor ever being asked this question) and people expect my brain to be overflowing with creativity. Or perhaps because I'm a designer people expect me to communicate in little sketches, who knows. One really stressful interview at a silicon valley giant, I was sidelined with the Passion Question right in the middle of talking about software design. I think I let it slip that I wasn't really that passionate about an email application I had worked on. (Please, nobody, nobody is ever passionate about email software design, let alone email, or especially software). I almost blurted out "money" in response to that question - I mean hello! interview!?! …

How Are You Doing? Looking at Your Data

I can tell how your website is doing. I can tell if this past year has been good for your site, or bad. Don't be offended, this info is freely available online. I'm talking about Alexa. With a little bit of analysis, I could make recommendations for fixing your site, or improving your web products, so that your business connects with more people and does better.

Massify.com vs. Cute Overload.com
Compare the past month of Alexa data for the blog Cute Overload with the professional networking site Massify.com*. What's interesting is Cute Overload is managed primarily by a single individual (a Designer) with a separate full time job. Massify is a small company and run by a team of professionals. Cute Overload had very little start-up costs and has very little overhead. Massify had a lot more start-up costs, and maintains much more overhead, more than a blog like Cute Overload. Still, Cute Overload is growing, and Massify is not.

Cute Overload.com

Massify.com

So what's going on…

A GOOD Online Survey from Best Western

Yesterday when I got the email from Adobe asking me to participate in their survey, I also got an email survey from Best Western.

Not only did the survey from Best Western actually work, but the manager from the hotel I recently stayed at emailed me directly to follow-up. This is how an online survey should work! The hotel manager thanked me for submitting the survey and she reassured me that they read and appreciate my comments.

I wish Adobe would get a clue that the internet is best for two or three-way CONVERSATIONS, and not one-way talk which creates the illusion of caring but doesn't actually do anything.

Bad Experience With Adobe Products

If anybody reading this wants to recommend an alternative to Photoshop & Dreamweaver, I'm listening....

I don't know how else to try to communicate to Adobe that their products are messed up and I'm starting to think about dropping Creative Suite. Their customer support is nonexistent and frankly it's impossible to log bugs through their site because they make you do so much work to log those bugs. I have about two dozen different bugs and complaints about various Adobe Creative suite applications, it would take me all day to break out each individual complaint into the neat little categories for the Adobe site. And I have to agree to terms and conditions to log a bug about their products? Its retarded. I normally get PAID to report bugs with software so this is just insulting to me.

Today I go another email from Adobe asking me to participate in another survey (the 3rd since I bought CS4 last year). The survey is BROKEN.

All I want is for Adobe to stop wasting my tim…

A New Updated Studioroom.com

Wow, how difficult is it to update one's own portfolio? That only took about um... a year! Well I launched something, and it's not even done!

At least some of my more interesting and newest projects are now represented in my portfolio. Projects like Veggie Trader, Path 101, & Alaska Urological. Samples for older work, like Massify and Bounty Jobs are still available for anybody wanting to see more IA and interaction design, but you have to ask to see this work.

In the next couple of weeks I'll be fleshing out Studioroom and adding more details to the portfolio and to my process. Since Studioroom does different types of design work there's more than one process. Right now we're emphasizing the User Experience Design process which is for software products more than for simple websites. If you or your organization is trying to design a web application and are strugging with the User Experience Design, please contact me.

My UX process is illustrated below, and outline…

Call me an elitist snob but I just don't want to hear your whining about food in 20 years

I had more than a good laugh at this insightful LA Times editorial Keep your self-righteous fingers off my processed food -- latimes.com. I guess I am an elitist food snob.

Charlotte Allen does have a very good point about artisinal products being too expensive. I definitely do not want people's food to become more expensive. I simply want the federal government to stop subsidizing the same crops that are contributing to the obesity epidemic (among other things) in this country.

Here are my thoughts as a product designer...
It's great that we have a lot of affordable products to choose from. The problem with too many cheap goods is that there are just too many of them and it's spreading this culture of cheapness. Living life cheaply, especially if you don't have a choice about it, is sad and demeaning and worst of all, it's infectious. You would never want to be hired by somebody just because your cheap? So why is it OK for China to exploit their population for cheap …

Mini Site Review - WhiteHouse.gov Reality Check

I am completely impressed by the Obama White House's approach to communications. Not only is the White House website beautiful, it's also very useful and informative. Whitehouse.gov is a case study for how businesses and agencies should use the web to connect with their audience.

The key is to:
1. Communicate clearly
Notice you don't see vague or ambiguous links that are designed to entice clicks - just strait forward, easy to read content.

2. Create relevancy by focusing on your content
The interface is elegant, it does not get in the way of the important messages and it's easy to find the information that is most important to you.

3. Make it a three way conversation
It's so easy these days to communicate with everyone. Sites that employ conversational methods engage people and create a positive experience. Using channels like email, facebook and twitter grow the conversation to a larger audience.

Here's my mini review...
(click to see my larger comments)

I Wish There Was Better, More Sustainably Raised Food Here...

Oh wait, there IS!



One of the painful things about moving from San Francisco to Baltimore is the lack of good food sources here in Baltimore. Healthy local foods of all kind flood San Francisco and the result is a food paradise for everybody. Shoppers have hundreds of choices, from great small stores, abundantly rich farmer's markets, and of course all those epic restaurants. SF has SO MUCH local bounty, you take it for granted. Here in Baltimore I'm actually shocked and appalled by the lack of good produce and variety.

The thing that frustrates me about the food situation here in the Mid Atlantic is that it simply does not have to be this way. Plants grow well here, there's plenty of sun and rain. Spring, summer & fall are all good growing climates here. There's NO EXCUSE for bad food and certainly for lack of choice!

Why can't the Mid Atlantic experience an Alice Waters/Michael Pollan inspired food renaissance? Aren't we decades overdue?

Hey Web Developers! Do You Think About Online Safety In Your Work?

Are you in the business of developing websites? Do you think about online safety when developing your site? You should. If you don't care about the safety and happiness of your entire audience then law or government might step in... If I was a web entrepreneur, a developer, or any type of investor with a stake in any web business, then online safety (a great user experience) would be my #1 priority.

What do I mean about online safety? Its more than identity theft, phishing, or cyber bullying. I'm talking about the entire world of the internet and all of your particpation in that world, and how this affects everybody else. Online safety includes things like; ease of use, clear simple communication, effective customer support, and avoiding over commercialization. (If Jonathan Adelstein is complainging about "relentless and excessive commercialization" on the web then you know it's already a problem which is getting addressed)

This past month I had the privilege to d…

The Smartphone Trend is Dumb

Do you have an iPhone yet? According to this New York Times article there has been a lot of growth in the smartphone market as job seekers try to look competitive to potential employers. This seems like backwards logic to me, just having a smartphone does not deem you a good job candidate. This article I feel is such a misrepresentation of the smartphone experience that I feel I need to blog about it. I also deeply question the New York time's bias here since they are clearly advertising lots of smartphones in their paper. Is this news? Or is this a big ole ad?

If somebody genuinely wants a Blackberry, Palm, or iPhone then of course they should have one, but they are all quite expensive and each of them require a $30 monthly commitment just for the data plan alone. That's $360 a year in addition to the expense of the phone, and on top of your regular monthly calling plan. Who remembers the good old days when the phone was cheap? This looks like a "bubble" to me, if I …

Working on Vacation (and it's alright)

I just got back from a week long trip to Asheville and the Great Smokey Mountains. It was fantastic. North Carolina has it all; beauty, culture, and natural wonder. I drove from Washington DC, my goal simply to explore and relax over a long Memorial weekend. On the drive I heard a few radio shows talking about the work vacation. Because of the economy, it sounds like people are afraid to step away from the office for fear that it will make them look bad, and then (maybe) they'll be targeted for layoffs. Some folks must be really stressed out about their jobs! So the work around, of course, is more technology and connectivity. The radio shows spoke to all the usual stuff like checking email all the time from your mobile phone.

I'm pleased to report that MY personal experience with the work vacation was good! I brought my laptop which was already set-up with the files I needed. I made sure that I got as much work done as I could before I left. I communicated to everyone that I wa…

Great Online Video Research on Obesity

The internet and video go really well together. The internet and research goes really well together. Put it all together and you get... an easy way to distribute great content to a broad audience.

Here IDEO has shared their research video about Obesity. It does a very good job at illustrating the complexities of making healthy food choices. Helping people make well informed choices is a design problem.

A Lens on Obesity, a Short Documentary from IDEO on Vimeo.

Why Drupal and Toolkits Like Drupal Suck

This software time-sucubus needs to STOP. I had a Drupal project last summer and it was a complete, miserable failure in so many retarded ways. The client was convinced that all I need to do was customize this already available code. They felt like the work was pretty simple (and hence cheap). There are glaring, obvious limitations to many of the pre-packaged UI elements, the "modules" in Drupal. You can't just customize the look of some module, if the UI is inappropriate, and it's not usable for your website. What's the point of changing the type and other visual styles in a template if people look at it but don't find it usable?

The worst thing about Drupal is that if gives non tech people this attitude that it's OK to cut corners and not think about User Experience or any of the practical realities of developing and managing a website. It lets people think that they can have some workable website in a day. At best you end up with a prototype of what yo…

The Green Dilema / The Omnivore's Dilema (A Book Review)

Happy Earth Day! I have been trying to wrap my brain around the Green trend for the past few years. I care very much about lasting sustainability. Indeed my entire career as a UX designer is all about trying to make the interfaces of software work well, for people, over a long period of time. When I look at the world around me I see a lot of UNsustainable systems which shout to me how obviously unusable they are, and suddenly I feel an urge to log a bug somewhere to get it fixed... before the software crashes... but there's no good place to log those bugs...

The truth about being green is that it's not very easy being green. Trying to be green is like trying to use Microsoft Word to edit a photograph. The world around me is just not set up to let me be green. Think about it, how many excuses can you come up with to NOT be green? Do you Recycle? Drive less? Compost? Use compact fluorescent light bulbs? Buy local? Fertilize your lawn organically? Save water? Purchase electricity …

I am Dreaming of a Real Kitchen - A Pure Kitchen

The worst thing about being a renter locked out of the housing market in San Francisco was that I had no control over my own "home". I couldn't garden, I couldn't have pets, and I certainly couldn't remodel a kitchen. Now, I'm able to have all of this in BaltiMORE.

Studioroom just launched a new version of Pure Kitchen.com. It's like porn for people like me.

Brooklyn, NY based Pure Kitchen specializes in modern, eco friendly kitchens. Unlike traditional construction, Pure Kitchen products use NO formaldehyde or other harmful agents. Did you know that you can get cabinet panels made entirely out of wheat? They utilize local fabricators, so if your in the North East that means your helping the local economy simply by remodeling your home.

When I finally buy my place, and am able to create the kitchen I've always been dreaming of, it will be a Pure Kitchen.

The Salad Lover's Dilema (1 calorie = 57 petro-calories)

What's not to love about a good, fresh salad? I love eating my veggies in all forms, but there's nothing like a crunchy, tangy, sweetly dressed salad - which must occupy my lunch and dinner table on a regular basis. Until last week, I used to love the spring mix salad so conveniently available at every super market, until I read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. I was amazed to learn that for every one calorie in spring mix lettuce, it takes fifty seven calories worth of "energy" to get it to my plate. That's right, for every ONE calorie of lettuce you eat, it took FIFTY SEVEN petro-calories just to get it in your front door. A typical spring mix salad serving has about 250 calories, but costs a whopping 14,250 calories of fuel (in gas, transportation, refrigeration, and automation).

This is exactly the problem that Veggie Trader (my newest site) is trying to address, sustainability.

It seems like a no-brainer to me, a foodie. Lettuce is lettuce and…

Dear Sellers - A House is a HOME (Not just an investment)

I am the elusive first time home buyer. I have perfect credit and a cash downpayment, and I am NOT buying...

There are a lot of lovely properties offered for sale all over Baltimore. Yesterday I went to a couple open houses in north Baltimore's Lake Walker neighborhood. I wish I could buy one right now, but they are all too expensive. The agent I spoke to at one house on Highwood street spoke about the new 1st time home buyer tax credit, $8,000.00. It would seem that sellers all of a sudden think their house went UP in value by $8k!!!

The problem with all real estate is that people are expecting a lot of something for nothing, just like the stock market. Too many people are treating homes as if they are equities, something which is just going to be traded around, profiting mainly on the transaction.

As far as I can tell, about %98 of the homes you go and look at need at least, AT LEAST, $20,000 worth of maintenance and repair work. I've also seen properties that need over $200,0…

Usability - Do You Believe in the Users?

Human beings are at the very core of User Experience Design. In my line of work (designing websites and software) there is an almost constant conflict between engineers & designers. The tech industry is constantly trying to streamline the way it operates, trading programming efficiency directly for User Experience.

I think everybody in tech is already aware of this imbalance and I was amused to see Google offering some user centered design lectures at their upcoming developer's conference. Here's a funny description of one session;

DoYouBelieveintheUsers?
Too many programmers have forgotten about the lost art of customer service. All software has users, though most developers have forgotten how to respect them, trust them, or “sell” their software to them in an exciting (but honest!) manner. This talk will focus on anecdotes and strategies for keeping software design uncomplicated, making software fast, and putting usability above programming convenience. We’ll also focus on …

Obama Visiting Baltimore on His Whistlestop Tour

We all braved 15 degree temps to see and hear Obama in Baltimore. Onward to History on Tuesday!

From Obama in Baltimore

Really, it's all about the people...
From Obama in Baltimore

Blog in 2009 - 5 Motivating Tips

So you started blogging, or you want to start, but you need motivation. After plugging away at this blog for the past 2 years here are my motivating tips.

1. Find a Muse and just write a lot
Do you have a business? Do you have a lot of clients and contacts? Do you have an interesting hobby or project? A baby? Do you travel a lot? Are you into the news or politics? Do you shop a lot? Pick a topic and don't be shy. The more you post, the more you'll think about blogging, and the more you'll get into the flow.

2. See who reads your blog, add Google Analytics
It's really easy, you cut and paste a small snippet of code from Analytics into your blog template and voila! See who visits your blog, where they are from, and which posts are their favorites. See how search engines connect you to your readers. Get Analytics here.

3. Talk about your blog, old school style promotion
I've found that I can use my blog as a conversation topic at parties, with friends, at work etc. Now inst…

New Years Resolutions for Growth

I don't need to loose weight or quit smoking. I don't need to get a job. I don't need a man. I don't really Neeeeed anything! But I want the following in 2009

Learn to play music and DJ

Grow my own veggies and then cook them or can them. Even make booze outta them.

Grow Studioroom

Draw and paint a lot and get that work out there

Travel more, perhaps drive to Talkeetna in May :)

HAPPY 2009!