Category Archives: Design

One rainy Whistler and #smashingconf

When I first saw that Smashing Mag was coming to Canada and close by i.e. Whistler, BC.  I booked an Early Bird Ticket.

I have found both their emails and books very useful.  I paid with my own dime, so I could not afford the workshops.  Most of my multiple day conferences have being Rails/Ruby/Data/Product/Startup so I was very curious what the people would be like at a Front end conference.

Eric on stage

The main stage at the smashing conf. One of my Photo BINGO photos

It was a mixture of designers, developers and product people.  This conference was a good mix of people, nationalities and friendly. Culturally it felt like a fusion of an European and North American conference.  The lightning talks (the evening before the conference started) were a nice touch i.e. short talks given by conference participates who were not speaking as part of the main schedule.

I learned, relearned an incredible amount of information. The conference was well organized, the staff were friendly.  To be honest I think I am still processing some of it.  The food was good.  The venue was good.  The main room was a little dark for me, but there was an ALT viewing spot with couches and a fireplace and skylights, this was awesome. I felt overall the conference itself was good value for money – but I did get it on early bird 🙂 The workshops felt expensive.

smashing conf audience

smashing conf audience

VITALY FRIEDMAN “Its important you should not FREAK OUT!” opening #smashingconf in #whistler

You can find most of the decks here you can see the twitter conversation at #smashingconf and I will add the link for videos when it appears.

IMG_2311

My Learnings

  • First make your site fast
  • Deliver core content first, then progressively enhance
  • Pay attention to size of everything and what it is blocking
  • Make it responsive. Build for mobile first.
  • Design in the browser, wire frames are wasted time for designers
  • Always consider accessibility
  • Have a style guide that everyone is responsible for maintaining
  • Use sessionstorage and local storage
  • Make it all modular and plug and play
  • Design is not a service. Designers have to sit in the team

Things to explore

The future is

  1. SVG Fonts
  2. <Picture>
  3. http2
  4. Service workers
  5. Offline, maybe..
Rainy Whistler

Whistler on a rainy day, with no snow in the village

Things for the organizers to consider:

It was a really well run conference, here are some ideas to add a bit more magic 🙂

Pre-Conference ask the attendees what they really want

Send out a questionnaire what are the top three things you are trying to figure out. Share the results.  This would help guide the conference, spot trends that are emerging.  Encourage lighting talkers, to talk on similar topics or not.

Help lone travellers meet others

Make it easier for people to “hook up” for dinner plans.  Extend the attendee list with peoples interests, linked profiles/online bios (The current one being shared with twitter accounts was awesome).

Have a wanted board

It could have jobs, types of people they want to meet, problems they are trying to solve.  It could be online or offline.

Apprenticeships

At the Ruby on Rails Conference (Railsconf) they have scheme, which allows a number of students and diverse backgrounds into the conference for free.  They also ask for volunteers to act as their mentors throughout the conference. I am sure some of the sponsors would consider giving

Other thoughts

I just covered the talks I watched in full.

Marcin Wichary

A great talk about typography, perfectionism, underlines and sanity. Funny & serious well presented

Deck – aresluna.org/whistler

Susan Robertson

Use style guides as a way to explore, define and guide.  Make it part of feature development. Examples for automated styleguides for web sites

A great resource http://styleguides.io

Deck – https://speakerdeck.com/susanjeanrobertson/style-guides-why-bother 

Yoav Weiss

mix & match <picture>/srcset/<img>/<source> to give users a specific image file according to viewport & display quality. <picture> is not ready yet but hopefully soon.

Deck – http://yoavweiss.github.io/smashingconf_whistler/#/

Marcy Sutton

Start at the beginning and make it part of the process. ARIA accessibility helps out with JavaScript.  All of us someday will need websites to be accessible as our eyes fail us.

Getting start with ARIA

Deck – http://marcysutton.github.io/a-web-for-everybody/#/

Jenn Luksa

Great presenter and Sass to boot. Resources

Deck – http://www.slideshare.net/JennLukas/smashingconf-whister-developers-ampersandwich

Stephen Hay

Design in the browser. Wireframes are wasted designer time. Sketch.

  1. Focus on small screens first
  2. Then colour and type
  3. Uses a sketch in code tool

Deck – http://www.slideshare.net/stephenhay/sculpting-text-easing-the-pain-of-designing-in-the-browser

John Allsopp

Cache do not use for performance.  Use sessionstorage and localstorage

Deck – http://www.webdirections.org/speakeasy/presentations/SmashingOffline/offline.html

Dave Shea

Choosing your journey with CSS is more about the communication and how the team views it, rather than the methodology you use

Don't grow up to be a specialist

Jonathon snooks talk

Jonathan Snook

Do not grow up to be a specialist, explore, play and grow. Luck is what happens when preparedness meets opportunity http://snook.ca

Deck – https://speakerdeck.com/snookca/becoming-a-deep-generalist

Brad Frost

Atomic Design –  a methodology for creating robust design systems. Working from the ground up. Example http://patternlab.io

You thing your resigning the web, but are redesigning how people work

From The Guardian talk

Patrick Hamann

Well presented and a great case study.  Build modular and decoupled systems. Design features for access(deliver in layers) first. Embrace the unpredictable nature of the web. Every feature must be measurable. You can see The Guardians Front end here https://github.com/guardian/frontend.  Their Mobile site is faster than their Web site.  Consider what you put in your first 14 KB, load the html first, JavaScript & fonts next (this usually stops the page loading), than analytics and adverts.

Deckhttps://speakerdeck.com/patrickhamann/building-theguardian-dot-com

Val Head

Awesome fun lady. CSS can do some cool animated interactions. Choose the mood that fits the brand. Timing 0.2 to 0.6 seconds.

Deck – http://www.slideshare.net/valhead/putting-your-uis-in-motion-on-the-web

Paul Irish

Getting to fast – I did not see this talk, and I am looking forward to the video release 🙂

Deck – https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1qoginKKkdrRpIPGjJakt1y17iXsIBSaInaHbR4JyCIk/edit#slide=id.g330e5fec5_00

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Good books to read if you want to create a web startup

These are books that have made a difference to my thinking.  I have read them all.  They are not all perfect but sometimes we learn lessons from imperfection as well.  Overtime I will keep adding to this list.

Top two to read now:

Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want

This book is visually amazing. Some in fact may find it too visual. It is an alternative book to The Startup Owners manual by Steve Blank or the The Lean Startup by Eric Reis. It takes the foundation laid in Business Model Generation Book and focus on customers and experimenting with those customers to establish a proven Value Proposition.

The contents is solid and assumes you have not a research background or a marketing background. Yet it gives you the things you need to know to reduce false positives.

Its approach is to assume the customer knows what they want.

I highly recommend this book for Product Leaders, MBA students, entrepreneurs, startup founders and project leaders.

Business Model Generation
Need to work how your business could make money, but not sure of which way to go. This book is an amazing and essential resource in establishing possible pathways. It also challenges you to stay flexible with business opportunities. It has some excellent real case studies in how to use this technique.

Top Lesson – Your business model should be a part of your daily thinking not lost in a 50 page MBA document.

Other great books

Getting Real -> Rework
Getting real was a good book to getting started, really from the perspective that you have all the skills and people already, it felt practical.  Rework was a updated version and it felt more abstract, more about the business then the product.

Top Lesson – get on with it and start simple

Four Steps to Epiphany -> The Startup Manual

This book really helped me do proper market research and how to do it. It is really a step by step guide in how to build a business around an idea.The updated book was much better designed and easier to read.

Top Lesson – don’t pitch but listen to the customer pains

The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development

There is also a “cheat sheet” by Brant Cooper & Patrick Vlaskovites, I liked it because it was visually pleasing and gets to the point faster then four-steps and The lean startup.

Do more faster
This book was like having lots of friendly practical tips. The chapters are short and it’s useful as a reference for early stage Startups.

Top Lesson – Founders earn equality too

Web 2.0: A strategy Guide
This book was full of case studies of web businesses that we all know, it shows their journey and their strategies. It is helpful in helping you think through the big picture in terms in how you handle the market, competition and evolving customers.

Top Lesson – Stay flexible and be ready to adapt but do have a long term vision with game plan, in your head.

Start Small, Stay Small: A developers guide to launching a startup
This is a really practical guide to how to turn your website into a business. What are your first few steps.

Top Lesson – There are many paths to the same goal.

Managing Startups: Best Blog Posts

This book pulls together some of the best blog posts on well everything startup.

For the founder who concentrates on the business, money side, culture

Startup CEO: How to Build a Company to Success

Great book for first time CEO and how to survive growth.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

War stories

Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less

Finding and addressing management and leadership weaknesses in organizations. It’s more relevant to large organizations but had plenty for small teams to incorporate as well.

Presentation Zen
You need to be good a telling your story, in a really simple fashion that all ages can understand. It helps you move away from bullet points to visual explanations.

Top Lesson – can you make this simplier?

Start with Why
This is an interesting book with a great TEDx video. It will encourage better pitches and storytelling and improve the marketing of your business and products.

Top Lesson – Those who start with WHY never manipulate, they inspire.  And people follow them not because they have to; they follow because they want to.

Delivering Happiness

This is told from the perspective of one person and his journey to learn the importance of organization culture. Every behavior or interaction you have will set the foundations for your Organisation. If you bully your people will copy you and bully to. What are values and principles? This book will help you start this journey.

Top Lesson – Happiness never decreases by being shared.

For the founder is more technology focused:

Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer’s Guide to Launching a Startup

An awesome book how to bootstrap, written by a developer for developers.

The Art of Agile Development
A most excellent book with practical tips in how you can truly move in applying agile. This book uses xp programming as its pathway.

Top Lesson -Your software only begins to have real value when it reaches users.

Clean Code

This book gives a good description of clean code and how to achieve it in your own projects.It is based above some very clear principles and will help you think through the code your currently create.

Top Lesson – always commit better code then you have checked out.

Clean Coder
How good is your code? How professional are you really? Can you say no. Do you pass the buck? Are you accountable for your code.  This author puts the prefect model out there, which is a good start for a dialogue for what is possible.

Top lesson – You need to say no when you need to say no

For the founder who is design focused, UX inclined:

The Smashing Mag Books 1,2,3
Both the books and the website are an excellent for both designers and developers alike. A smart collection on web design principles. It’s a high-level view of user interaction information and has useful takeaways in each chapter.

A Project Guide to UX Design: For user experience designers in the field or in the making
A step-by-step guide to web development from proposal through wire framing to testing and launch.

Final Thoughts

Now go and build, create and show us your vision.

You want more -> If you want to see all the books I have read on startups have a look at my goodreads profile and my startup shelf

A cold startup weekend in Seattle – The rise of the designer

After Vancouver Startup weekend, I pretty much decided to head to the next Seattle event.  Mujtaba Badat @MujtabaBadat (he presented Duke Nuke – one of the winners) and I became friends after the Vancouver event and so drove down to event from Vancouver together.  The Seattle event was themed the “Rise of the Designers”  on January 13 – 15th 2012.

Bootcamp (Thursday night)

I loved the idea of the bootcamp, but we could not get down on thursday night.  In the last event I helped out with business model, marketing, wire framer and social media setup. This weekend I wanted to help out with front end web dev. The bootcamp offered the following:

    1. Get your computer configured with all the tools needed to work collaboratively with your future team members.
    2. Setup and configure a GitHub account with a skeleton project including:
    3. App Engine – web framework with simple user accounts, database, and hosting.
    4. Bootstrap – HTML design toolkit
    5. jQuery – client side Javascript framework
    6. Backbone.js – Rich application HTML5 framework

FRIDAY EVENING

Entering into the venue there was real energy, most people were up and talking to each other.  There was the fresh smell of pizza, beer and excitement, it was infectious.

Networking

I met as many people as I could without being rude.  Sometimes I forget that I have a British accent and I find that americans tend to listen to my accent more than my words for at least the first sentence.

Speaker – Matt Shobe CEO Big Door (@shobe)

Here are some highlights I took from his presentation.

  1. Surpass fear (learn from everyone, the answer is yes to any reasonable request)
  2. Successful teams (speed of execution, empathy, transparency (Good honest arguments))
  3. Openness (No such thing as a private conversation with your customers, Admit your mistakes publicly)
  4. Personality (The spirit of the people who created the product, find opportunities to high-five your customers when they succeed)

Preamble

The event was hosted by John Morefield (@jamorefield) and Shane Reiser (@shanereiser). There were about 36 designers at the event and 20% returning from other startup weekends. Ideas

So one difference at this event from Vancouver was that you had to put your pitch online.  I liked this, as it made it easy to track which ideas you like. There was about 50 pitches. The ones that stuck with me include:

  • QR Codes for giving to homeless,
  • Robots – Here is Justin’s initial pitch
  • Writing community
  • A wish list of places you want to go
  • After party mobile app
  • make the most of an event
  • A mobile app to plan surprises for people
  • Bus route app
  • Web monitoring to provide affordable home security
  • Superheros mobile app where you could conquer real life locations

The ideas were presented and we than got a chance to meet the pitchers and discuss further. I was looking for an interesting idea, but also people who would be fun to work with.  I wanted to avoid people who came over as too serious or who appeared to need to control. I also wanted to avoid ideas that had being researched in great detail, as then focus tends to be narrowed and there is less clay to play with (although they are more likely to win).  I did not care about how good a presenter the idea pitcher was.  We were given three votes.  After the vote 15 ideas remained.  Each pitcher got 60 seconds to tell us who they were looking for.

Deciding who to join?

  1. QR Codes for homeless donations I really liked and they had a decent sized team.
  2. Robots: the pitcher (Justin Wu) I had met during networking and I loved his energy but he had only two others on board, one tech and one interior designer.
  3. The Surprises App had a really big team, maybe too big.
Here is Justin’s initial pitch:

The Team In the end I decided Robotic team, as they had no business person (yes I wanted to code, next time), I had never worked on a physical product before and I knew I would enjoy working with Justin (he has sooo much of energy, and surprisingly he works at Microsoft!). We moved quickly to find the best location, a window for light, a white board and near where the food would be setup.. The team consisted of Justin @jzwoo (Microsoft engineer) – standing at the back, Guru (Microsoft engineer) sitting down on the left , Elijah (Interior Designer) hiding at the back on the left  and me (the nutter in red). Justin basically wanted to find a business model excuse for playing with robots!  We brainstormed use cases, the strongest seemed to be:

  • Checking in on elderly parents
  • Playing with your pet at lunchtime
  • Security for second home owners or people who travel a lot

Getting to know Robots

Justin talked about the capabilities and what we would have to build ourselves.  From this we felt that an Open source robot operating system, with a modular chassis into which you could plug and play extra hardware and sensors. The intention was to allow the shell to be different shapes and materials. We also considered giving 1% of profits to WWF and modelling our robots on endangered species Making money with a consciousWe live on one planet when it’s done it’s done. So we considered what could we do sustainably. 100% Organic Polymers seemed easy enough. We debated the concept of Cradle to Cradle – essentially we take back your dead robot to recycle and reuse.

We broke up for the night and I started playing with some ideas for names, concentrating on the product rather than the company.

SATURDAY

Up early with the Dogs

In the morning I went to the nearest dog park to gut-check some early name and price points with the locals and to see if I could learn anything to help us. I learned that the most receptive target market was young, professional woman, who live in small apartments (especially tower blocks) and whose commute to work was at least 25 minutes.  The price point seemed to be under $300  I tested a number of names and found that animal concepts worked well, but that most women did not like made up names.  The name “Chicken Checkin” brought a number of smiles to people’s faces.  Pushing a bit further, most of the people I spoke to had grandmothers who they all felt guilty about not interacting with enough and that about 50% did not live anywhere near them,

Name

I sold the “Chicken Checkin” idea to Justin and the rest of the team as they came in, and updated them on what I’d learned. Justin worked on giving an us a set of robot feature set that would cost under $300. This was a product name only, the company name would be Life Style Robots.

Drafting the Business model

Version One Life Style Robots

I found some research conducted in Japan that showed elderly people preferred robots to look like robots or animals but not humans (maybe they watched Battlestar Galactica). Also women tend to care more for aesthetics of a device (and this was rise of designer weekend). So I played with some concepts and trialled them out on random women in coffee shops and fellow weekenders. I worked on animals that had fat bellys so to be able to accommodate the chassis.

  • Chicken checkin – to be our cheapest option under $300
  • Chatty Panada – Use an iTouch equip device and allow for two-way video and be under $600
  • Periscope Penguin – To be able to see above a kitchen counter to be under $700
  • Reaching orang-utan – with long arms

Mentors

So during saturday several mentors came over to ask what we were up to.  After describing our idea they would give their perspective. Early on some of the advice was tough to listen to as it was extremely critical.  Each of them had some really different styles.  The style that really worked was those mentors who owned their perspective and gave what they saw as our weaknesses with ideas about how we could overcome them. At some point on saturday we had two mentors come and give their perspective, both were pretty aggressive with their opinions.  Some of their advices was not helpful as they wanted a lot and we just did not have the resources (people to carry them out). We as a team felt really deflated.  Justin had being to a couple of events and he said he called this “Mentor Whip Lash” and his perspective was to take the good advice and follow our instincts.  Labelling it seemed to help. For the mentors that came after this, whilst we listened, and I wrote copious notes and then we also chose what to ignore and what to take on. NOTE – this is not say that the advice that was given was wrong, in some cases we needed to process it, others we wanted this to be our path, and not the mentor’s. That said mentors sometimes need to tell us the uncomfortable things.

Social Media

Facebook page is the easiest, least resource intensive way of getting a presence on the internet.  That said, you need 25 likes of your page before you can own the URL for the page. So my poor Facebook friends got spammed.. I asked some of the other teams to help out too. www.facebook.com/chickencheckin/

Mock design

Elijah (our interior designer) took the Chicken concept to heart and started to mould a physical mock-up.. Of course we are building a physical product! Clearly the egg came first.. Software

Justin and Guru concentrated on the software: in our perfect world we want to show the robot being controlled by a web browser or via smart phone whilst video chatting.

Who should pitch

Sometime during the day Justin said that his head was going to be in making sure we could present the robot and asked if I could present the pitch. I nearly said no but he looked stressed when I started to, so I agreed.  We talked about how to divide the pitch, I would get two and half minutes (out of four) leaving the rest for the robot. At some point on sunday one of the mentors check us out and the presentation and told us that Justin should pitch as does not sound “above the audience”. Sidenote – Over the last couple years US TV and film has put a lot of English people into ‘evil’ character roles. I wonder sometimes if is becoming part of the american psyche to assume that we are.  (Mwa-Ha-Ha-Ha-Haaah!!) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2hmP8_mXUc&feature=related

UPDATES

During the day, teams stopped for 15 minutes to give each other updates with where they were, including accomplishments and problems.  Most teams stayed in the same space which kept the energy high.  I believe a couple of teams went to a VC’s office and another some other office space. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pH9Gx_IdLic&feature=related

Drafting the pitch

So as the cards fell out, I ended up  building the presentation deck as I was the only one comfortable with design and presentation software.  So I built out the skeleton of what we need to cover. My process is to put down everything, work out what is missing, fill it out and then replace all the words with images.

Drafting Business Model Version two

Website

Saturday night I worked on the website as I was the only one with any front end web skills.  I did not finish it for the weekend.  I was looking for a playful style, that showed a prototype mentality. Its in HTML 5, Css 3 and Javascript so it may not work on IE9

SUNDAY

Concept diagram & logo

Elijah built a couple of concept diagrams so you could see our device to scale and then he started on a logo. Building the pitch deck

I pitched a couple of times to mentors and strangers alike. I am an amateur designer and would loved to have a graphic designer on the team to help me build out the visual story.. We got some good news the pitch length was going to be five minutes.  Now we could really cover the business model.

Business Model version three

At some point we narrowed down our target market to provide senior citizens with life style robots and dropped home security and pet care. Whilst they were nice additions there was no way I could sell all three markets in three and a half minutes. Better to focus. Guru pulled a competition analysis together. Elijah helped me pull out some more figures together and Justin gave us the final breakdown of components and costs.

Research

During the day I kept researching to find some real nuggets of information and to be ready for the Q & A. I think this is where our team size hurt us as if we had another person we could have worked out all the figures we needed for a professional, investor pitch. I went to a couple of stores to find some senior women (over 65) or women in their fifties (their daughters) to talk about our Chicken checkin. I spoke to five woman in their fifties, three out of five liked the idea, but on two occasions they were with their daughters (grand daughters) who really liked the idea.  Again, three out of five (woman in their 50s) did not live anywhere near their mothers. I had a great conversation with one elderly lady who frankly I wanted to adopt as my grandma! She had a great sparkle in her eyes and was very cheeky. Practice, Practice, Practice

I found a quiet spot and practiced my pitch out loud and timed it.  I was coming in at three minutes forty. I showed it to a couple of others in another group and got feedback. Later, I joined the locals around pioneer square, talking out loud whilst wandering around. 😉  I even practiced my chicken noise with a homeless guy for a while. I got back to find the pitch length was back down to four minutes.. back to two and half minutes. I watched Mujtaba give his (it was very good for CloudSense) and I gave mine.  We gave each other honest feedback.

Err.. Snow in Seattle!

I love snow, trying to think about the project not skiing down a mountain 😉 Maybe we could put the robot on skis or a board and test it.. Pitch order and technical check in

About 4pm we chose our pitch position. Our team felt going near the end to help us buy more time to get the robot ready, so we might learn from the other pitches and be more likely to be remembered by the judges after 14 pitches (a lot to remember).  We ended up pitching last!

The other pitches It’s really hard to pay attention to all the other pitches, when you are waiting to do your own.  I think I watched nine:

  • Iron Curtain was polished, this was led by Seattle venture capitalist Greg Gottesman, who also pitched.
  • Street Code was powerful, this was pitched and led by one of the judges (Mike Koss who was replaced by Adam Philipp). They had two pitchers.
  • Suprize had a lot of bumps but was immensely funny (in a good way)
  • WhichBus was gorgeous
The Judges were well natured, yet asked some good questions.  Adam took on some of the aggressive business questions.

Our Pitch

I knew I had to bring the audience back to life after a long weekend and 13 other pitches and Q&A. I had to give them all the energy  I could muster (I was balancing my drinking of energy drinks with water), but being sensitive enough to feel what they wanted from me.  Our pitch can be seen (well just heard really) on Ustream http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/19798455 and starts at 45:20 it misses about 10 seconds but the sound quality is really good OR or you can see below on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2978E3H1cTU&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNNpuR7mBEw&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL It starts with Chicken Checkin Screen and ends with Demo Time.. Sorry cannot get the slide show to exclude the other images..

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I started the pitch with a Buuraaa ac (chicken noise).  A couple slides in I noticed a big spelling mistake in one of the slides (I changed the word right at the last moment).  I would have liked to allow some of the jokes to rest with the audience but I did not have time.  At the end of my section I asked the audience to cluck to encourage our chicken checkin robot to come out.  The audience was awesome! 🙂 I am pretty sure I even heard a judge cluck 🙂 I then handed off to Jason at 2 minutes 40ish, to demo the robot.  Of course there were a couple technical hitches but we showed it working.

The Q & A

The judges were speechless. “The obvious question is… I guess there isn’t an obvious question….”  was tweeted out referring to Scott Rutherfords’ reaction (one of the judges).  I got asked some good questions and I gave OK answers, but I should have practiced this more. There were questions about the serious uses of the robot, what market validation had we done, an offer for help and the cost margins.

F*ck, we won something..The judges awarded five companies and we won best presentation and came third, prizes for which included:

Iron Blanket (@Iron_Blanket)came out top with the best business model, followed by Street Code(@StreetQR_Code) with the best market Validation, followed by us (Chicken Checkin) for the best presentation, followed by Surprise with the best UX.  With honourable mention going to WhichBus for best design. More detail can be seen here on Geekwire.  For the other teams have a look here http://swsea.posterous.com/

Reflection:

We had to drive back to Vancouver, so we headed, straight after the event (with the snow we were not sure how icy the roads would be), so we missed the after party 😦 .  Mujtaba and I reflected on what we learned, how it was different from the Vancouver event, how are respective pitches went and what we would do differently next time.  It was at this point I noticed how HUNGRY I was, having not eaten since breakfast..  Junk food here I come..

1.  The size of teams

I think Iron Curtain had 14 bodies and Surprise was 13 bodies, having that many people really helps what you can deliver in a weekend. Clearly you need good leadership if your team is that big. At just 4 people we needed more people, but we did good.

2.  Graphic Designers and Artists are important 

We did not have a graphic designer, in fact 75% of team were engineers. Having that capability on your team will make such a difference in UX, branding and story telling. I need to find a way to recruit one next time.. Maybe show them a very badly drawn presentation that breaks ALL of the principles..  Just in case you want more proof, here are the sketches I did in my hostel for the pitch for the website (saturday night). 3.  Pre-weekend work

Both in Vancouver and Seattle it felt like, those that had some good pre-market research done before the weekend started. This gives a team a real edge, as it can be quiet difficult to do effective market research at the weekend.  Some people avoid their e-mail, some businesses are not even open, depending on the weather it maybe possible however to find people shopping, which gives the possibility of some direct marketing (face to face clipboard questioning).

4.  Accessible network

Having friends to help out to cover spots that your team is missing is really helpful, I saw this happen both in Vancouver and Seattle..  As well as having friends respond to your survey to get some serious validation. Maybe give some of your specialist friends a heads up and an offer for beer..

5.  Awards

Having the awards broken down into why they were in best was really good. However, there was a little confusion (and a lot of emails) as the judges did not state beyond best design, best UX, best presentation, best validation and best business model any order of winner(s). But this was cleared up after Geek Wire published an article declaring the winner – Iron Curtain (well done guys) and that the order reflected the position of the winners (reverse). We just have to work out how to reward developers with some credit now.

6. Pitching

I learned from my first startup weekend that you need to always focus on how, what you are doing is going to help the pitch. I think I took too long in letting go of parts of the pitch (e.g. the two other sectors – pet owners and house security), mentors certainly told me what to concentrate on, but on occasion I resisted (because targeting 50 year old women seemed a tough nut to crack and maybe not so fun).  I think my pitch was OK, but not brilliant.  Areas I could have strengthened it were in demonstrating the market validation and building out the finances. Maybe having that extra slide with component prices etc, ready for the Q&A.  And of course I should have practiced the Q&A with some of the team to be stronger on the answers. Don’t get me wrong I am extremely proud to be part of a team to win best presentation and win some prizes, I just want to learn and be better.

7. A place to reflect and share

As there was no online announcement, there was no place to see the final winners and prizes given. In additional people like myself write blogs, to reflect on the experience, process it and hopeful learn (and publicly show off our failures and successes).  It would be good to have a final page listing the winners, the final teams and who was in them (with contact details) and blog postings. On this occasion the GeekWire Article and the #swsea(twitter tag) became the informal places to carry on the conversation.

8. An idea? Angel List for Startup Weekends

It would be awesome if Startup Weekend started to keep an archive of all the startups, maybe even profiles for people who do it on a regular basis. Maybe even game it like foursquare? Maybe that could be my next pitch??

Other Perspectives:

After finishing this article I re-surfaced and found some other posts, have a look: Harmony Hasbrook  on the team “Hungry, Thirsty, Bored.” Dwight Battle on the surprise team. Paige Pauli on the WhichBus team. Katie Kuksenokon multiple teams.

[Update] Here is a promotional video looking at the Designer story.

BIG Thanks to:

A place to stay Not from Seattle I stayed in the Green Tortoise Hostel

The Venue – The Hub A great location, one BIG room. Thanks to Lynsdey  who was an awesome hostess.

The Startup Weekend Crew  Thanks to John, Sean and Ashley (@A6Hodgson) – You are a great waffle maker 🙂

The Food Was awesome, particular the Thai food on saturday night.

T-Shirts Thanks to Rohre from Five Bamboo for the T-shirts.

Extra Video Thanks @adamlovering for the extra video!

Reflection on TEDx Vancouver

Did I learn anything? Yes. Was it a good crowd of people? Most definitely. Would you recommend it to friends? Yes. Were there ideas to spread? Absolutely.

The theme of TEDx Vancouver was “Frontier” this year.  This is my third TEDxVancouver and fifth TEDx event and it has being interesting to see it grow.

There are some who just go for the speakers, me I go to meet the audience, people who are willing to apply are already interesting and hopeful the speakers will intiate ideas for people to talk about. I prefer to learn and evolve through dialogue.

Thoughts on Speakers:

Reid Gower ****

The video was inspiring and keyed into hope, aspiration and the beauty of the planet we live on.

Nolan Watson ***

“Compassion kills”

“Don’t donate to Africa, invest in Africa!” .

“treating symptoms instead of effectively solving problems”

Spoke on how naïve compassion kills lives

Stephen Slen & Aaron Coret ***

“Pursue what gives you meaning…and what allows you to share your joy with everyone”

“Twenty years from now, the things you would be most disappointed by are the things you didn’t do, rather than the things did” – Mark Twain

A story, of force changed and how they dealt with it. Two snowboarders, one breaks his neck (and cannot snowboard anymore) both build a device to make learning snowboarding safer to learn, esp tricks.

Jai’ Aquarian & Erin Marcri **

The importance of expressing emotion.  It started off really well, that our society often represses our emotions.  But the actually case ‘the building of the a wooden temple to burn down’ (could you have built a house for a homeless family instead?) was interesting but only for people who could really afford it, so it felt self indulgent, when compared with the other stories.

Sean Aiken ***

“what matters is what makes you come alive”

“Those who are most passionate about their work, are those that are connected to the meaning behind what they do”

Jose Figueroa ***

A story of stupid immigration bureaucracy. Not the first one I have heard when you have a conservative government with a commitment to slow down immigration.

‘Canada has the obligation to respect innocent people’

I would have loved to hear this in spanish with a translated. Some people complained about the political nature of this talk, but I pointed out to them that anything involving humans and change inherently becomes politics.. hmm if politics comes from the latin – citizen + city does that mean it does not exist in the rest of the country 😉

Seth Cooper ***

Interesting speech about using games and gamers to solve some of the world tough problems, the examples were in bio chemistry.  For me this is old news.

Christopher Gaze ****

“Shakespeare is all around us. Alive and well.”

Excellent stage presence. I learned a lot of the metaphors I take for granted and are from Shakespeare. One drunk actress came up to me later to say that he had got one line wrong. Me I just respected him even more 🙂

Jer Thorp ****

“By placing data into a human context it gains meaning. These are our histories.”

A man who loves his data and knows how to use design principles to make it more readable.

Kara Pecknold ***

Saw her presentation at the Design Thinking conference, liked it.  She had definitely polished both her presentation and slides, so it was an upgrade in terms of presentation. Design process – Discover, Define, Develop, Deliver

Dr Kate Moran

“99% of life lives beneath the surface of the ocean”.

Really cool tech, sign up to see live data come in and watch the fish swim by from camera upto 800 miles out into the pacific. http://www.neptunecanada.ca/

General Romeo Dallire ****

Although the content was too much, I think he delivered some of the most important messages, where the whole audience could help.

“Inaction is an action”

“There is no way you can sustain status quo.”

“people that operate under ‘status quo’ are going to fall behind”

“The future of humanity is in the NGO Community and the youth will join them”

“That if the youth of today vote they will change politics forever”

My reflection from his:

Youth of 2day could change the political system by voting, say no to status quo or they cud let their inaction be their legacy 

Victor Lucas *****

I think in terms of content, emotion and presentation this was the best presentation, the context was = what advice will he give his girl when she is born and understands language, they are simply rules that any of us could apply to ourselves.

1. Don’t be a dick – People love people who aren’t dicks. Go light on the sarcasm. What people remember most about dicks, are that they were dicks.

2. Don’t dick around – Touch the world. It takes work, planning, and goals to be happy. Don’t let dicking around be your goal

3. Don’t hang out with dicks – If you aren’t a dick, you’ll attract people who don’t dick around. If you hang out with dicks, other people will think you’re a dick.

4. Dream

They actually feel quiet Canadian?!

The Organization:

Venue + Crowd management

Amazing for presenting, bad venue for meeting people, no WIFI within the theatre. Crowd management was poor. $80 per person and 1000 people turned up not sure where all the money went considering how many volunteers  helped out

Food

Limited, they ran out of meat and I ended with vegetarian, its ok I can eat grass ;-). Apparently no vegan? The pop tart donut things were interesting if you could fight other people for them.

Presentation organisation

The presentation organization was smooth and professional.

Music

Billy the kid was awesome.  It would have being nice to have more than one performer.

Videograph

I love sailing, but the number of times they changed the camera angle started to make we sea sick (for those speakers whom did not use slides).  Though seeing the person on the screen was helpful as if you were one or two levels up those presenters were a mite small.

After Party

This was awesome.  The venue was very cool (Space Centre) as the whole venue was open including the laser show (which was cool but too long).  Looking forward to when the venue is in a place that does not need cash for drinks.

Suggestions for next time (I will add to these as my brain returns):

Help people network

Give people 10 random people they should meet, have ‘professional’ volunteer networkers whose job is to get people together to talk, have a lot of space so people can easily discover people, have games people can play based on the talks.

Call to Action

Stalls for each speech where you could pick up notes and ways to get involved and help. As well as find people who want to talk more about that talk 🙂

Forming Community

The president dude said that he wanted to form a community and I think it can become one.  So involve us in dialogue, before and after the event. Don’t just talk at us.

  1. Maybe start with the theme – crowd source it.  If you have courage get the community to vote their top five and than let the organizers choose.
  2. Let us all see the applications, this will allow us to choose who we want to talk to at the event. Not brave enough for that than publish the attendees list with our links.
  3. Have so many non-celebrity speakers and get some professional trainers to get their presentation skills upto speed (yes I would volunteer for that). OK after writing this I find out that you sort of did this but not with the TEDx Vancouver community but with another community (http://tedxvancouver.com/vancouverisawesome-com-helps-select-kara-pecknold-as-speaker-at-tedxvancouver-2011/)
  4. Have a  space where by skilled people can volunteer (see which skills they can offer), this will help you choose good people and also people may volunteer to be coached by an expert volunteer.
  5. Choose an online platform to keep the dialogue on-going after hearing the speakers (twitter is helpful for buzz not so much for dialogue).
  6. In the end community forms out of lots of interactions between people and the best is when you can watch the dialogue without having to intervene.
  7. Use the space on the name badges for something useful, yes your name helps, AND some unconferences have “Ask me about..” or “Three things I love…” people often just need an excuse to talk to each other, make it easier, especially for the shy types
  8. I wonder what you can learn from each talk, if you applied it to TEDx Vancouver?..

TED.com talks played on the day

These were interspersed during the day. Apparently to make sure we don’t go native or become to NIMBY and share in the global movement 🙂

Marcin Jakubowski: Open-sourced blueprints for civilization


http://www.ted.com/talks/marcin_jakubowski.html

Charlie Todd: The shared experience of absurdity

http://www.ted.com/talks/charlie_todd_the_shared_experience_of_absurdity.html

Mark Bezos: A life lesson from a volunteer firefighter


http://www.ted.com/talks/mark_bezos_a_life_lesson_from_a_volunteer_firefighter.html

Matt Cutts: Try something new for 30 days


http://www.ted.com/talks/matt_cutts_try_something_new_for_30_days.htmlss

Whoops missed one (Thanks Chris Ryan)

What do you think?  I welcome your views both pro and anti 🙂

Abstract vs Concrete

I think abstract is dead and concrete is in. I am biased its my style, I am a survivalist, if I could build a shelter to protect me from the impeding zombie or alien invasion I would 😉

Technology companies and their expressions

Do you remember those websites from technology companies in the 90s’?  For me they seemed to love the abstract.  It felt like technology people were leading web development and to a degree they were. Admittedly the technology did not make it easy.

In a recent gig I worked on creating a new web site in which the aim was to  show off the people. This was a professional services company and most business development relied heavily on contacts and relationships.  In effect people were buying these people and their brains.

Technolgy companies who offer faceless applications make me sad and very unlikely to trust them. All these applications that you should make my life easier and make me efficent seem to be lacking the human story, they are/were abstract and expected me to understand their ‘clever’ context.

I think showing a technology in action in is a way to help but you need to show what it does for a person, its more concrete and less abstract. Don’t talk about it show it.

The need for speed

We are in a world that ‘requires’ instant gratification. We have become impatient.  Whilst we can Google anything we don’t want to unless we have to. We want to click and swipe less. We are being bombarded with thousands of messages every day and we start to ignore or even deny the existence of the things too big or complex for us to understand. To understand something that is abstract takes longer than something concrete, in part because we have a framework to reference. Coming back to gratification we generally know that if something is concrete it is more likely to gratify us quicker than an abstract thing.

Logos

There are a bunch of successful logos, but I think the ones that are really succesful come from something that actually exists.  Yes we can train our brains to fill up the brand cup and understand the values and their brand promise but in the end I think the journey is quicker and more complete if the thing actually exists. And maybe the more common it is the more reminders you will.  I think designers can be so ‘clever’ that they are the only person who understand what they have done.  This may miss the opportunity to ‘educate’ a viewer about the company and its values.

Company Names

There was a horrible stage in human history where we decided to reduce company names to acronyms. OMG the letters.. What is more disturbing is the number of North America tech startups that are repeating this era.  It makes me want to give free branding consulting.  Ok why is it bad?, enuff screaming already.. You are expecting the viewer to know or care, to work out who you are and what you are about.  Yes a logo can ease this journey.  But a society where instant gratification is driving force or goal, people will make a judgement in the first few seconds if they want to engage, consider it like dating, you know straight away if you are physical attracted to someone, it is no different with Logos and names.

Choice limitation

As our lives and choices become more complex we often looking for a simply journey or option. If I want Orange Juice I just want orange juice and the packing that can help me a quick simply choice will win. I DO NOT care if it has 15 features, I want to know it is orange juice the real shit not the frozen from concentrate shit. Make it simply.

Its got legs, Spock..

For a while we consumed and created media in abstract environments e.g. office desk, office chair, computer and monitor. Yet we are starting to bring those devices into new spaces and out into the world..  now they are travelling with us rather us travelling to them..

Visual Thinkers

We are already this, but we are starting to use it in more mediums and ways. Cinemas, Television, Videogames, WYSIWYG Interfaces, smartphones, they have all infected us with their UX ways.  First they had to train us how to use their interfaces.. Now we are needing less and less training.. in part what was once abstract is now concrete and we have learnt more in UX into lean into what is ‘natural’ for humans.

Tactile Thinkers

Our entire body is our biggest sensory organ.  We started with abstract controllers and now we are going back to basics.  We got diverted with Keyboard, Mouse, Talbets, Palm Pilot, and now we are waving our figures and hands and legs around to control devices (with iPhone, Kinect). We are starting to control, and engage with real and virtual environment through more concrete controllers.

However..

For some of us where concrete ends and abstract starts maybe further along a scale.  I reckon those who have taken their education and learning to higher level through books/web or higher education will see somethings that are abstract to others, as concrete to them. I think the human mind will allow you to build a tower of babylon into the skies, built on partly concrete and abstract to understand something out of the reach of others.. Maybe that is what genius is the ability to exist in a world entirely of abstract concepts.. But I am guessing that this is still a minority in our human race.

A journey through design thinking..

Over the last couple years I have being considering design in terms of my startup Professional You.  We are working on something that will have a large amount of complex data in our system and that needs to be easy to access and manipulate.

In my life, design started with Technical drawing at school as child.  It than evolved in basic computer games later at school. However it was PageMaker and Quark Xpress both in their first versions that got me really into thinking about what I was creating and the process.  I still have this amazing book called ‘One Minute Designer’ by Roger C. Parker that was an amazing help to get me started. This lead me to training professional typesetters how to use the first Desktop Publishing software.

Later in life I took on a computer science degree and studied system design and UX at University which helped me to understand some more of the language and concepts. During my placement year I created with a partner a business to help businesses upgrade their paper based systems to electronic ones particularly Finance and Admin systems.  It taught me a lot about change management and the direct impact on people that systems have, thus my design and process became very people aware.

So back to the present, 19 years of marketing later…To help me with startup, which I can visualize entirely in my head I decided to absorbed some books:

  1. Head First Web Design – Ethan Watrall
  2. Design Interfaces – Jenifer Tidwell
  3. Universal Principles of Design – William Lidwell
  4. Designing Web Navigation – James Kalbach
During this part of the journey I bumped into an amazing book which takes rational concepts and made them very visually meaningful. It taught me how powerful effective design can be.
  • Business Model Generation – Alexander Osterwalder
Yet still my greatest frustration was now I understood the concepts but could not actually create them.  So I took an Introduction to Drawing course at (VanArts) and I learnt a lot with many of the Betty Edward books supporting my class learning.
  1. The new Drawing on the right side of the brain – Betty Edward
  2. Color – Betty Edward
  3. Basic Perspective Drawing – John Montague
Yet this still was not enough, I want to CREATE!  So off to college I go again this time BCIT to refresh my software coding skills. Completing my first course with 98.5% grade.  I loved it (you can tell by the grade) because it was leading me down a path where I could create 🙂
Ok so that is the introduction!  What got really thinking was a linkedin group I joined called Design Thinking and a conference they held recently in Vancouver, BC. The conference was really something, which I have yet to fully process.  But it was very good and had a lot of interesting people.   Somehow I ended up running a session on what should a Design Thinking Manifesto look like, my initial concept came from the Agile Thinking Manifesto.
We in the session revealed the values and the principles that should be a part of it.. Come join the discussion on the linkedin group and you can see the work we created here.
What I have learned from this journey so far:
  1. Is that there is value in iteration and striving for perfection can lead you down a rabbit hole
  2. Practice, practice, practice
  3. Working and playing with good people refreshes the souls and is fun
  4. Combining the words design and thinking implies there is a process that it is more than just intuition.
  5. Good design thinking involves engaging both the rational and the emotional parts of your mind.
  6. That you need to be able to take criticism and other points of view.
  7. That you have to have some part of you that enjoys turning chaos into order
  8. That your audience may not think and feel as you do
  9. That you should never stay still and need to bounce between what is safe and what makes you sacred
  10. That there needs to be story behind it a consistency of your journey
  11. That ‘pure’ design is elegant and more often occurs in nature than in human creation
  12. Simplicity and complexity can both be beautiful
  13. That whilst we admire perfection we don’t trust it
  14. Engage the users early and often
 There are more books involved in this journey which can be found here.