If it’s broken…

November 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

Let’s fix it!  There are two things in my quest to go paperless which irritate me to no end: paper checks and receipts.  Both are broken. Rather than rehashing why I think they are broken, I’m going to share what Seth Godin has to say on the matter because not only is this video entertaining, but it is full of insights.  I was reminded of this brilliant video today after reading an interesting post from Bank Innovation titled “iPhone5, NFC, and the payments experience: scenarios and implications“.  I completely agree with the points the author makes there regarding the receipt that Square provides, and I think we’ll continue to see useful integration of social media in the payments experience.  Bling is connecting payments and social with their new FanConnect platform, and Facebook Places has opened up a check-in experience within Facebook.  I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before rewards are instant and in the form of Facebook credits.


The Empathetic Developer

September 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

My first foray into the post-college workforce involved time spent answering the phone and helping people use a Windows application. Of course, there were the “other” calls as well – since I was “technical” I could solve any issue with your computer/network/email system, right?!

This was soon a programming job that included training customers on the application I worked on (with someone else taking the calls – thank you thank you thank you). This was an eye-opening experience, and it made the work I do so much more rewarding. After all, I was able to see first hand how I made the work of other people easier and more enjoyable. I’ll never forget being on an elevator after finishing a training class and hearing a customer described what was once a mundane job as “fun”.

And… of course, the opposite is true. Ever seen a customer use your application in a way you never intended only to bring your app to its knees spewing errors and leaving the customer banging the mouse and going on yet another coffee break? No, that’s never happened to me, but… yeah. It’s painful and again, so enlightening and here’s the point – important.

In both instances, as a developer I was there to witness the joy and the pain of something great and something bad that I had brought into existence. What did I learn? That better apps are built when you understand for whom you are building and even better apps are built when you can see the customer use what you have built. That said, this is definitely better done beforehand with wireframes and prototypes.

I know my experience is somewhat unique – not all programmers like to wear multiple hats and not all companies like to (or see the value of) putting their programmers so close to the customer. So how do we build empathy in those developers who are walled off from their customers? We could build personas that as accurately as possible represent the customers. We could find a willing customer or two to share their experiences in person and/or in writing with the development team. We could host a meeting of the minds where select customers and developers are able to cross pollinate ideas and give feedback in a casual setting.

Any other ideas?

Location in the background

June 15, 2010 § 1 Comment

With the new iPhone 4G comes iOS and the ability to run applications simultaneously including location aware applications like Foursquare.  You could opt-in to check in and/or out of a location without pulling out your phone and going through all the technical motions now required by (albeit snazzy) apps like Foursquare.  Imagine this:  You’ve selected which venues you’d like automatic checkins for.  For those locations, you can further choose to accept promotions and mobile coupons, socialize your shopping experience, and accept promotions from nearby vendors offering similar merchandise.  The list is endless, as is the development opportunities, and they extend way past shopping.  Again, Apple is leading the way in providing the means for pervasive marketing and opening the doors for innovation in location aware applications.  Expect to see others follow.

iPad Love

June 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

Every good invention replaces something.  Apple claims this device to be revolutionary.  I happen to agree.  Here’s what my iPad has replaced so far:

  • Paper books.  I love reading on my iPad – bookmarking and search are awesome.  The Kindle app has a feature to show the most highlighted text in a book.  I expect to see more more social features like this with iBooks and Kindle; possibly integrating with Facebook and Twitter.  I expect to see integration of industry specific dictionaries.  Think text books… My kids will not use the paper variety when they get to college.  Also, cookbooks (think inline instruction videos) and religious texts.
  • <nerd alert> My book light.  Yeah, I travel with one.  It stinks when the battery runs out or I forget it.  I can adjust the brightness of the “book” I’m reading.
  • My Blackberry calendar.  Ok, so I don’t have an iPhone.  Yet.  I’ve set up my iPad calendar to sync with my Google calendars.  It is color coded, and it is beautiful.  In a sense, it replaced my old Franklin Covey paper planner as well.
  • Newspapers.  Being a tree hugger, I always felt bad about the papers I didn’t read, so I haven’t subscribed in years.  I get most of my news online.  An app called Fluent News aggregates news in one beautifully crafted UI with the abilities to turn down sources you don’t like.  There are also apps like Instapaper and Feeddler which allow you to take online content from blogs and websites with you whether you have an internet connection or not.
  • Magazines.  From here on out, I’ll take the digital version.  An app called Zinio showcases how awesome magazines becomes when you can integrate such things as video and interactive maps.  Check out the free National Geographic that comes with the download and you’ll understand.  I expect to see a lot of growth and innovation in this area.
  • Paper notes.  Still walking around with that unsearchable, unsortable paper notebook at work?  There’s an app (actually a few) for that.  Start with Evernote.
  • Leisure use of my laptop.  My IBM Thinkpad lost some sexy points when iPad walked in.  I also watched my husband fall out of love with his netbook.  My kids (ages 7, 5, and 3) all don’t get why the “screen doesn’t work”.  Oh, and boot time.  Lame.  Browsing is faster and email is more fun.  The Apple ads told you that though…
  • Simple picture frames and digital picture frames.  I love to see and share pictures of my kids.  I’m not scrapbook-inclined.  I can take all my awesome digital photos with me in a format that looks sleek on my desk and fits in my purse.  I’m looking for a good MOV to MP4 converter so I can take my little videos of my kids with me too.  There’s this really cute one where my 3 year old is watching the sunset at the beach…
  • My tv.  Well, mostly.  I have old tvs – not the fancy HD sort.  My iPad HD screen (albeit smaller) is so clear, and I can stream Netflix and ABC shows instantly.  My kids and I have huddled around the screen to watch a show we had ordered via our cable provider’s on demand services but later could not find.  It’s just SO much easier (and we all know how bad the UX is on cable – can we at least get a decent search???).
  • Simple clock and radio.  The speaker is decent, and there’s a little app called Night Stand HD that has a sleek UI, and it integrates with the included iPod.  I wake up to my favorite song 🙂
  • A trip to the bank.  I pay my babysitter every week using the PayPal Bump and Pay app for iPhone.  Simple, fast, and free.

I’ve loved sharing my iPad with my children.   My 7 and 5 year olds love the Alice,  Toy Story, and Cat in the Hat apps.  The Toy Story app by Disney really showcases the possibilities that exist for innovation and tailoring to the young user for books.  My 3 year old loves to go through the letter flashcards in the Letters A to Z app.  She can scroll through, shrink, and zoom the pictures like a pro too with very little instruction.

Is there anything that it doesn’t do?  Out of the box, it doesn’t do multitasking – I can’t have more than one app up at a time except for iPod.  That stinks.  My friend and fellow geek @jsnyng though, has shown me the light and power of jailbreaking, and that will solve that issue.  Make a phone call and take pictures.  Some people really get wound up about this one.  I say, “big deal”.  I don’t need my iPad to do everything.  Word is though, that Webex supports VOIP although I haven’t tried it.

So, I’ve just scratched the surface here on what iPad can do and why I’m fanatic about it.  It’s a whole new canvas for developers and designers, and it’s been quite a ride to watch as new apps surface and gain popularity.  I think we’ve just begun to see the possibilities on this beautiful device.

Your wallet is like a blanket without sleeves

April 27, 2010 § 1 Comment

Remember the frustrated woman in the Snuggie commercial? She couldn’t get her arms out in time to answer the phone. Then she was fumbling about for the remote. Damn blanket! Then she got her Snuggie – the famous blanket with sleeves that comes in stylish prints and colors. The next scene shows her smiling, changing channels with ease and talking on the phone in comfort.

Shift this experience to the frustrated consumer standing in a long line with three small children in tow, all of which are screaming. Finally, it’s her turn to pay. She pulls out her wallet (which is gigantic because of all the different plastic cards – won’t even close) and those damn cards fall all over the floor. With crying baby on hip, the poor woman bends over and tries to pick up all the cards that just fell out of her over-stuffed wallet. She’s close to tears.

Next scene: With smart phone in hand (most likely an NFC enabled iPhone), the same woman, no longer harried, but patiently comforting her small children, pays for her goods quickly and securely.

The fact is, this technology is awesome and will transform the way we make payments. I could list scene after scene showing how this technology would make my life easier. Unlike the Snuggie, I don’t think it is a fad or a cultural phenomenon, and I don’t think cults will form in opposition.

In a recent article making the business case and strategies for using mobile money to close the gender gap, the author stated that the wide adoption of a mobile payments system must be targeted to women. I couldn’t agree more, both in the U.S. and abroad (however for different reasons).

There seems to be an article or blog post daily questioning whether consumers will adopt a mobile payments model. Going back to the Snuggie analogy… Before the Snuggie was available, most people thought only of improving upon the blanket in style, size, and material.  Snuggie sales have exceeded four million. I’m reminded of a famous quote from Henry Ford:

“If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have asked for a better horse.”

Then there’s the famous line from Field of Dreams…

“If you build it, they will come.”

Seth was not wrong. I was.

April 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

In a previous blog post, I disagreed with a post on Seth Godin’s blog about there being a problem with needing to be told what to do. While I still think this is true in the context of technical leadership, I failed to appreciate the context in which Seth was writing. Now, a couple of chapters away from completing his book “Linchpin”, I understand that a Linchpin not only does not need to be told what to do, but a Linchpin creates the map for those who do. The Linchpin provides the creative vision and domain knowledge to build a new map.

The people Seth was referring to are the cogs in the factory (The Factory – this may be the topic of a future post…) . These people are those who are content to just draw a paycheck, and if they’re not told what to do, well, they probably won’t do much of anything.

His book is full of insight and inspiration, and I’m a huge fan. It continues to encourage me, especially as it pertains to the lizard brain and the resistance. I am inspired to be more artful in my development efforts and emotional investments, and most of all to….SHIP!


April 23, 2010 § 3 Comments

I’ve been rethinking this blog lately – my original intent and what I hoped to accomplish with it. While I’ve rediscovered that I like writing, I’m not really writing anything new, nothing original. And this.IsTechnical = false! So, I’m open to suggestions. What do you think I should write about here?