SXSW 2010: Your Design Process is Killing You

Sunday, March 14, 2010 2:00pm
Sara Summers, Microsoft

Session Description

Designers and developers are efficiency experts for our clients, yet we struggle to provide that expertise for ourselves and how we work. Learn how to collaborate and craft an effective process for teamwork and the hectic nature the business. This is a call to arms to every designer and developer in the community. No more smoke and mirrors. Let’s unify our efforts and make a real product the first time.


The use of play and collaboration is best to get innovative ideas.

So what’s the deal with play? There’s no rules, it’s fun, it puts you in the moment.

Dr. Stuart Brown made the Institute of Play. What’s in teresting is how he came to study play. After the shooting on cthe campus of Texas in the 60s they brought Brown in to see why the shooter would have done what he did. He found this was due to a non-play childhood.

Play gives us empathy, trust, joy, etc. The absence of play gives you depression, rigidify, etc. The science of play is critical to our adaptation. The science of play is hard wired in us to play throughout our lifecycle. The science of play, if don’t for it’s own sake, makes us more progressive. It also drives us to seek out innovative products.

Tina Seelig, Executive Director for the Stanford Technology Ventures Program does exercises with her students. Paper and sharpies were passed out to the audience to do an exercise. On one side of the paper you were to write down the best business idea you could think of, and on the other side give the most horrendous business idea you could think of… and do it in only 2 minutes. Ripping the page in half, you only keep the bad business idea. The whole idea Dr. Seelig teaches is by simply getting people out of their typical creativity.

Kacie Kinzer’s Tweenbots were little robots which could only go straight placed around new york with a little flag that said, “Help Me” and the destination they wanted to reach. Every robot released eventually got to the correct spot.

Antonio Damasio’s experiment gave $2000 of fake money to all of his participants, and offered them two decks of poker cards to draw from. The participants needed to draw, on average, 50 cards from the more profitable pile before realizing it was better. After 80 cards they knew what to do.

Rationality requires feeling. So empathetic great design is needed to achieve great results.

…and I left.

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SXSW 2010: Why You Aren’t Done Yet

Sunday, March 14, 2010 11:00am
David Heinemeier Hansson, 37signals

Session Description

The deadline is looming, you’ve tweeted how busy you are four times this week, and yet you just can’t get the project wrapped up and out the door. Real artists ship and you want to be a real artist, real bad, but you’re not. Let me show you how to rework that.


You can’t get anything done at work: most working environments are too difficult to get things done because you have too many people who become distractions trying to pull you away from your day. The times at which you get the most amount of things done is before or after people are there.

The one thing you should be worrying about are meetings. They’re usually scheduled in nice little neat chunks for some guy to blabber on and on about things you just do not care about. In most cases meetings are a waste of time for all of those people involved. Sometimes meets are good, such as when you want to fire someone it should be face-to-face. In basics, if you are announcing something with absolutely no emotion involved, then a meeting is not involved. Meetings are really just  what arrogant people call so they have to listen to them.

Most creative work doesn’t fit well with an hour there, two hours there, etc. You need more longer stretches to get things done, because as of right now meetings are the interferences in between.

Hansson decided, working at 37signals, since he couldn’t get anything done he would just stop going to the office and work from home (most of the time). There needs to be an interruption cost. So if you need to interrupt someone it’s $10, and that’ll make them think twice. Think about it this way: if you call a meeting with 10 people who make $25 an hour for an hour class, then you just blew $250 of the companies’ money.

The reason why you’re not getting anything done is because you’re working too hard. Just because you’re pooring more work into the day, it doesn’t mean you’re getting more done. If you’re aiming for creativity then crunching for so many hours are not going to produce those results. Very few creative ideas occur when you’re just crunching data. The best productivity happens slowly without stress.

Don’t be a hero: In most companies if you’re a work-a-holic you’re the hero. Don’t be that guy. Deadlines are ridiculous since someone is just making them up. If you, for instance, pull an all-nighter to make a Friday deadline then you’re going to be burned out that Monday or Tuesday.

Everyone says, “But I have so much work to do, so I cannot do this!” But in reality you still have an 8 hour day, you just use it better.

You’re in over your head: in most cases your boss asks, “when will project X be done?” and thus you answer giving your own deadline. You really have no idea when it’ll be done, and your estimates suck. The sooner you realize your estimates suck the happier you’ll be. You need to stop measuring deadlines as deadlines, and just realize they’re guesses.

You have to take charge: Decisions are progress, so make the decisions and make the call. When you can see on Wednesday you’re not going to get it done, you need to let someone know. Most people don’t do that, and it becomes much more critical by Friday. You can stop it at any moment if you have the courage to do so.

Good enough is fine: Don’t spend so much time working on one thing, just get it done and come back later to polish it up and make it better. This way you can get the entire system completed, and update it later.

Giving up is often one of the best things you can do.

Questions and Answers

What solutions do you have when working from home?
Turn up some loud dance music, use virtual desktops, and get rid of all distractions, mail counters, etc. Check your email only a few times a day.

How do you convince your manager how to do this?
Well, when Hansson worked for a company where they didn’t have this ability he just stopped going to meetings and started working from home. Try to see if you can work from home, and if people are not ok with you doing that then take a “sick day,” work from home, and show them what all you’ve gotten done. Results in productivity are really hard to disprove they worked. Disclaimer: you may get fired.

Are there any big companies which are doing it this way?
No, not really.

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SXSW 2010: Augmenting Maps with Reality

Sunday, March 14, 2010 9:30am
Ryan Sarver, Twitter
Laura Diaz, Navteq
Kellen Elliott-McCrea, Flickr
Dennis Crowley, Foursquare
Chris Pendleton, Bing

Session Description

Remember when the utility of an online map consisted of directions and gawking at satellite imagery? With the recent tide of location-based apps such as Foursquare and the introduction of the likes of Twitter Maps, maps is rapidly emerging as the gateway to socially exploring the world around us. But that’s not all. In this future focused discussion, we’ll explore the rise of maps as a social platform and it’s potential beyond. This panel is sponsored by Microsoft Bing.


As maps are getting more and more detailed at representing specific landmarks and buildings, what if we could project that further and represent rooms within buildings? The problem with this is there isn’t much public data for this type of information.

Another thing Crowley references was venues for events. How do you know how large the venue actually was to compare the attendance?

Another downfall is the way map data is updated and then released back to the public. Right now it’s a very manual process when updating streets, locations, directions, etc. No one mentioned any solution for this, aside from it’s just going to be socially constructed based on multiple feeds all coming together to make this happen. To me, this sounds kind of messy and inaccurate.

In the foursquare app there isn’t a map where there are clusters of people representing where people are. However, they have just recently added the “trending places” section which allows people to have a mental picture of where everyone is. All the data is there, but it just becomes a factor of representing it to a presentation layer.

The concept of “Bush-craft” is the idea where locals and people who have went there know about the good places to go.

There are quite a few open source map projects, but there still needs to be better ways where the end users can become the experts to where they live.

Questions and Answers

Have you seen any interesting data streams lately?
Twitter has a geo-tag feed. Flickr has a public listing of geo-tagged photos. Foursquare has a log of the last 3 months of your friends activity. Geonames and PublicBlock are also good sources.

The GPS on our phones is limited to a radius circle, so how can we get better accuracy? Is there anything coming out?
ComLab and Cisco are both working on things such as that. Skynet also is working on combining GPS and Wi-Fi. The problem is you need 3 or 4 satellites for lock-on, but in most cases you’ll only have 2. So being able to connect those two with Wi-Fi would be a huge potential.

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8-bit Map of New York

SXSW 2010: Moon 2.0: The Outer Limits of Lunar Exploration

Saturday, March 13 3:30pm
Veronica McGregor
Amanda Stiles, X PRIZE
Cariann Higginbotham, Spacevidcast, Co-worker/host
Nicholas Skytland, NASA
Dave Masten, Founder and CEO of Masten Space Systems

Session Description

Space sector representatives will discuss how the use of web and mobile technologies create opportunities for participation in future exploration of the Moon. The panel focuses on how X PRIZE, NASA, commercial space companies, and others generate greater interaction and interest in Moon missions using collaborative platforms and social media.


Veronica McGregor


Nicholas Skytland:

@astro_soichi takes twitpics photos from space.
@astro_jeff ordered flowers for his wife from space

Amanda Stiles:

X PRIZE Foundation

The USA was last on the moon in 1972, and the Soviets were there last in 1976. So when is it we’re going back? Google Lunar X PRIZE has decided to create a lunar landing prize for us to just do that (but not yet sending people). They currently have 20 teams registered, with a year left.


Dave Masten:

@dmasten – CEO
@wikkit – Tech
@mojaverocketguy – Engineer
@mmealing VP Bus. Dev.
@colinake – Sales
@drbobloblaw – Tech

Cariann Higginbotham:


Questions and Answers

  • Why did Kenedy only take 8 years, but George Bush said in 15 years we’ll go again?
    There is a debauchery that basically says, “things get worse over time.” When Apolo was running, NASA had 5% of the USA’s government budget. Today they now have 0.5%. (What a half-ass answer)
  • Someone asked about any access to publicly placed photos.
    McGregor suggested which is a community driven website which provides photos generated from the publicly open images from one of the Mars drones. NASA does not have the staffing to create these good of image rendering, and thus this publicly generated source is actually better than what they have.
  • What do you think the role of open source projects will play in the future?

SXSW 2010: CSS Frameworks Shootout

Saturday, March 13 2:00pm
Joshua Clayton, Thoughtbot, Web Developer
Nathan Smith, 960 Grid System
Nicole Sullivan, Author of OOCSS
Chris Eppstein, Caring
Beau Smith, Square Inc, UX/UI Designer

Session Description

Many CSS Frameworks have been introduced in recent years, some are now quite popular. The advantages (fast development, cross-browser compatibility, table-less design, etc.) are exciting, but the disadvantages (bloat, lack of flexibility, lack of what is already available in css) are equally compelling. Framework authors discuss the similarities and differences.


Blueprint CSS

  • Started 2007

960 Grid System

  • 960 pixels wide
  • not-too-otiringal name
  • 12 and 16 column versions
  • 24 column version too (blueprint peer pressure)
Object Oriented CSS
  • Grids – 13 lines
  • Template – 14 lines
  • Rounded corner boxes – 29 lines
  • Enhanced Stylesheet Syntax
  • Generates CSS
  • Variables
  • Mixins
  • Nested selectors
  • Calculations