SXSW 2011: Better Living Through Cloud Computing

Jon Wiley (@jonwiley)
Designer, Search

Cloud computing is still just computing as it’s simply manipulation of storage and data. Cloud computing isn’t really a new thing as it’s been around for quite a while. It’s really an ongoing evolution from the day the internet was born.

SalesForce: No client software was harmed (or used). Basically it’s all on the server, and no clients have the software on their machine.

Jon’s presentation was brought to us by the Cloud via the use of his Google Chrome Laptop, and the internet.

Examples of the cloud are: Google Voice, Dropbox, Evernote, Netflix Streaming, Kindle, Google Maps, Google Translate, Picnik, Aviary’s Phoenix, Pixlr, Mint, PayPal, ING Direct, JayCut, OnLive and OpenTable.

However, there are some limitations to Cloud Computing. The biggest limitation is bandwidth: typically the up-link speed is more important than the download speed. In the USA bandwidth speeds are quite slow. In South Korea they’re proposing having 1 GB/second by 2012. Google proposed their fiber-optics line for 50K-500K people.

The maximum human sensory badwidth is 100,000,000 bits per second. That means South Korea is almost at the speed of human brain power! Woah!

Cloud-augmented: taking previous objects that were not connected to super computers but enable them to do so. For example, the Eye-Fi SD card.

There are some risks/bad things with Cloud Computing:

  • Security: Passwords, Hacking, Phishing.
  • The Patriot Act requires only a supina to access your Cloud. However if it was stored on your physical computer they’d need a Search Warrant.
  • There’s no FDIC for your data.
  • What if the Cloud site closes? Your data is then no longer accessible.
  • What happens when you die with your passwords and data?

Other Links

Guillaume Nery base jumping at Dean’s Blue Hole, filmed on breath hold by Julie Gautier

SXSW 2011: Conserve Code: Storyboard Experiences with Customers First

Joseph O’Sullivan
Lead, Design Innovation

Rachel Evans
Principle Research Scientist, Chief Innovation Catalyst

Design Thinking

  • Deep Customer Empathy: knowing your customers more than they know themselves
  • Go Broad to go Narrow: if you’re going to get a great idea, you’ll need a portfolio of existing great ideas.
  • Rapid Experimentation with Customers


Storyboards are quick visual steps in how a user in a system executes. The first documentation in history of a storyboard was in 1930 in Hells Angels.

Intuit uses Storyboards in terms of:

  • Web Applications
  • Mobile Applications
  • Customer Care: even before the first phone call, or during it
  • Human Resources: their employees’ experiences throughout their job from the first day
  • Community Support

An Example

Snap Tax is an iPhone application to file your taxes with the ability to take a photo of your W2 and have it instantly populated, ask them additional tax questions, and then pay and file your taxes. When creating this application originally they made a Storyboard which gave them their estimated tax right off the bat with just their W2 and marital status. This Storyboard was also just 6 slides long, and very generalized and simple. If you show a customer a finished product they’re less likely to give you negative feedback because they feel bad. But if you give them a storyboard right off the bat then they’re more likely to. In the end they discovered customers didn’t care if they were getting a refund, or for how much, but rather or not the phone system would actually speed up their process. So instead of showing them their number right away they showed them how easy it was to enter your W2.

  • Pitty Begets Honesty: Customers tend to react to rough sketches more honestly than with finished click throughs.
  • Narcissus Antidote: We’ve never seen anyone fall in love with their storyboard and not change it.

Creating Storyboards

When you’re creating a Storyboard you’re just wondering what’s good or bad with your idea, and what works well with the customer. A Storyboard needs to be aligned with the customer’s problem, solve that it is a solution for their issues, and finally wow them. In every cell of a Storyboard there is something to learn:

  • Do you understand the problem? Is it an important problem?
  • Does your solution solve the problem completely?
  • Lastly, the benefit. What is good about your idea from the customer’s perspective? Will it delight them?

A 6-cell storyboard should have these cells: goal, problem, solution, solution, solution, benefit

In setting up a storyboard you should consider these things:

  • What’s the project?
  • Who’s the customer? Get specific: age, gender, experiences with similar products, etc.
  • What’s the problem? “I’m trying to __(goal)__ but __(problem)__.”
  • What’s the solution? Three most important moments that need to occur for the solution to execute
  • What’s the benefit? This isn’t the feature list. It’s what’s beneficial to the customer, and doesn’t include any of the words how you would describe the features to your boss.
  • Now that you have the customer problem, the solution, and the customer benefit, what do you want to learn about it? Your goal is to gather as much new feedback as possible. It’s what’s not clear to you about what you have completed so far.
  • Now it’s time to draw.

SXSW 2011: Stop Dreaming, Start Doing: Tips For Execution

Scott Belsky

The problem is that most ideas never happen. Sure, some ideas should never happen. Even the greatest ideas suffer horrible odds. Ideas do not have to be because they’re great or obvious.

The Project Plateau

You’ve got a great idea, it’s exciting and you’re loaded with energy. Eventually you hit this plateau where your creative energy dies, and you give up on it. But as humans we love having these great ideas, so instead of completing the first one we just create a new one; over and over.

  • How organized are you? Only 7% of people say they’re very organized.
  • Lack of Leadership Capability: not being able to leverage your team and use people for what they want/need/can be used as will fail.
  • Lack of Feedback Exchange: we’re not getting the insights we need to keep going.
  • Disorganized and Isolated Networks: We’re not thinking about professional networks in putting our ideas together.

Making Ideas Happen

  • Creative Ideas
  • Organization and Execution
  • Communal Forced
  • Leadership Capabilities

Overcome Reactionary Workflow: email, SMS texts, facebook, twitter, etc. These things pull us away from what our overall goal is. Ceativity * Organization = Impact: If you have all the creative inspiration in the world, but no organization, your impact will still be 0.

The Action Method

  1. Action Steps: the ideas
  2. Back-burners: everything that piles up on our desks
  3. References

Action Steps

If you enter a meeting and you don’t exit without knowing anything, then you shouldn’t be doing them. Standing meetings, or creating an agenda are good. Having a culture of capturing Action Steps where you confirm they’re written down what they need to do (it’s kind of Big Brother). Another good technique is to go around in the last few minutes of the meeting and confirm everything there is you’ll need to do based on this meeting, just to confirm you gathered it all. If you do not do this, then you’re just destine to have a meeting again in a couple weeks.


Progress Begets Progress: Hang things around your desk with milestones and tasks (such as sticky notes) to make sure you’re doing things. Prioritize Projects Visually: make a chart with project priority board with Extreme, High, Medium, and Low. This way you have accountability to say “I didn’t get project X in High done as project Y in Extreme was mentioned as more important.”

Reduce your amount of insecurity work (facebook, twitter, analytics, etc). The best method is to ignore everything until a certain time you set in every day (such as at the end) and then handle it all then instead of trying to handle it throughout the day.

Types of People

  • The Dreamers: Tendency is to always focus on the new. Right before execution they want to add all these new features. They’re always thinking how they can make it better and add things to the project.
  • The Doers: They are the downers. They don’t want to do things as they have deadlines they will not make.
  • The Incrementalist: Very good at rotating between the Dreamers and Doers. Sure, you’d think this is what you want to be. Instead the problem with them is they just end up creating too many different things.

There really isn’t a good type of person. The best thing to do is to assign these to someone, and only have them focus on their own category. Then rely on your community to keep you accountability. But should you be scared that the community will steal your ideas? Well, the idea is no ideas ever get done anyways, so even if they get stolen at least you were more inspired to attempt it. As well, if they idea is so great then it’s probably not something easy to do that anyone else wants to do anyways. Another technique is to share ownership of ideas because everyone will have different views and approaches to complete the goal. Basic line: The benefits of distributing ideas outweighs the costs.

Seek Competition

Don’t get discouraged if someone else has already done it. What we’ve found are the most successful companies have spent time thinking how they can pace themselves with other similar businesses or ideas. Fight your way to breakthroughs by arguing about a topic as people get emotional about it, and great ideas come out. Eventually people will start to give in with Apathy and just say, “fine, whatever.” When that happens, don’t let it. Make them argue back. Don’t be burned by Consensus.

Overcome the Stigma of Self-Marketing

Use twitter, facebook, newsgroups to get people involved in your idea or product.

Leaders Talk Last

Let everyone else talk first, and then voice your opinion after you have a chance to absorb everyone’s ideas. If you talk first, then everyone else will just agree with what you’ve said and you’ll never get their ideas heard.

Value the Team’s Immune System

The Dreamers need to be the only ones involved in the Brainstorming process. The Doers then need to be involved after the initial Brainstorming, and the Dreamers need to keep silent. It’s the best way to get through things and result in a finished project.

We need to say in the business plan to allow for failure. You should plan for 20-30% of your development to be failure. This way you have that time, and your company will be the most creative.

When you’re interviewing new people for your team you should ask then, “What did you do to take initiative on your hobby/interest/experience XYZ?” Their initiative is more valuable than anything else; since just doing it isn’t taking initiative.

Gain Confidence From Doubt

When more and more people start to doubt you, you start to become more confident. When 99% of people think you’re crazy, you’re either crazy or you’re on anything. Society is very critical and shuns what society celebrates. Usually everyone who’s successful has dropped out of college or done everything no one said they could do.  So, honor this. Do this. Be this.

Nothing extraordinary is every achieved by normal means.

SXSW 2011: One Codebase, Endless Possibilities: Real HTML5 Hacking

HTML5 HackingJoe McCann
Principal Architect
subPrint Interactive

What is HTML5?

HTML5 is just the next version of HTML, and don’t expect it to solve all your problems.

What is the HTML5/Web “Stack?”

HTML is the “Content” of the application; the .html file. The styling is your CSS. And the business logic is the Javascript.

Benefits of the Web Stack

For the business individuals, there is an important concept that needs to be covered. There are value propositions which you want to have native development in languages such has Java, C++, Ruby, etc.

For majority of applications, however, you can the Web Stack (HTML/CSS/JS) without needing to know all the different environments.

When you’re designing your application there are some serious issues you may run into. Typically with a native design you’ll need designers who can develop across all different languages. However with HTML it’s just one language. HTML has native web components, and it’s cheaper to hire designers just for the web than everything else. There are many more web-designers than there are in other languages.

But what about maintenance? Across languages pushing updates requires updating to all different platforms. This can be costly, and time consuming.

Keep in mind HTML5/Web Stack does not solve all of these problems.

Web Stack Benefits

  • Significantly reduces development costs
  • Significantly reduces design costs
  • Maintenance becomes easier
  • A single codebase

Tool of the HTML5/Web Stack

  • Phonegap: bridges the gap between multiple phones through HTML and Javascript Bindings for things such as the camera, accelerometers, etc.
  • Sencha Touch: HTML5 development tool-kit for creating native applications using web technologies.
  • Appcelerator Titanium: Not only do they have cross mobile applications, but they also have desktop applications too!
  • jQuery Mobile: Uses HTML5 tag elements united with jQuery. It’s theamable, but really in early stages of development.
  • Yahoo! Query Language (YQL): not necessarily a framework or something that will create a user interface. This essentially turns the entire web into an API. It allows you to screen scrape websites (wow!). It allows you to create an SQL statement to parse through the HTML and respond back with XML or Json with what you want. This allows you to make calls with Javascript.
  • Node.js: Very easy to use, very fast. Allows you to write javascript on the client side, but then also use that code on the server. This makes it really nice for form checking. Basically if you can write Javascript, well, then you can now write server back-ends too.

One Codebase (How, Setup, etc)

First you need to figure out what is it you’re targeting: Google Chrome, Mobile Safari, Android Chrome, Native Mac OSX, Native Android App, etc.

Clearly there’s a server-side component you’ll need, but you can still use Javascript through Node.js.

Demos (click here for the code)


If you’d like to see this presentation you may so here.

SXSW 2011: Metrics-Driven Design

Joshua Porter (@bokardo)

Doug Bowman

Doug Bowman is the lead designer at Twitter. A few years ago Doug wrote a blog post about leaving Google, where he was hired three-years prior. He was really the first real designer hired at Google. There are very few hires like that who get so much press and people talking about it. Doug’s post was a post that he was leaving Google, and usually when you write these sorts of posts they follow the same type of formula: this is my last day, I’m sorry about leaving, and my co-workers are great. However, Doug’s post was nothing like that at all: “Unfortunately for me, there was one small problem I didn’t see back then.” And that’s the problem we’ll talk about in this session: 41 shades between each blue (the best they found was HEX #2200C1) to see which one performed better, and an argument over the width of a border (1, 2, 3px). Bing was/is using a different HEX color, which their UX Manager estimated being a loss of $80 million dollars. The data testing culture becomes a crutch for every decision, paralyzing the company and preventing it from making any daring design decision.

Spectrum of Design

Intuition-Driven (Doug)

  • Instinctive
  • Subjective
  • Daring
  • Follow other people’s practices
  • Trust your gut

Data-Driven (Google)

  • Everything is tested by small numbers, and small variables
  • This process is very slow
  • You rely on data for decision making
  • You don’t trust your gut

Imagine that Your Design is a Mountain

Your existing design is on the side of a little mountain. With an engineer’s approach you can only get to the top of that little mountain. An engineer quickly gets to a diminishing return as they can only go so high with the current design approach. It’s really dissapointing  because you’ll eventually hit a ceiling where you cannot go any higher, known as a “Loci Maxima” in calculus.

Our goal is to be at the top of the largest mountain where our goal is the best (or even just a better) design.

  • Optimization asks: What works best in the current model?
  • Design innovation asks: What is the best possible model?

What are Metrics?

Metrics are simple numbers that measure the effectiveness of your business.

  1. Metrics reduce (but don’t take away all) arguments based on opinion.
  2. Metrics give you answers about what really works. They can also lead you down a rabbit hole, but if you do testing and you have valid data they can give you answers about what really works.
  3. Metrics show you where you’re strong as a designer. They also show you where you’re weak as one.
  4. Metrics allow you to test anything you want. Metrics actually empower you to try anything, where as before you’d have to sell someone on a crazy idea.
  5. Clients love metrics.

Principle: Your metrics will be as unique as your business.

Vanity Metrics are thing such as old-school graphical hit-counters, which you shouldn’t rely on.

The Usage Lifecycle

  • Interested
  • Trial/beta User
  • Customer
  • Passionate Customer

Acquisition Metrics

  • How much did it cost to gain your customer? (Cost per Acquisition, CPA)
  • If your CPA is higher than their life-time earnings, then it’s not worth it.
  • Comparative Metrics: knowing where users came from, and their cost and outcome based on those.
  • The best acquisition outcome is still from Email Lists.

Engagement Metrics

  • Hits
  • Page views
  • Visits
  • Unique Visitors
  • Returning Visitors
  • Registered Users
  • Customers
  • Frequency
  • Time on Site
  • Daily Active Users

Cohort Analysis: Engagement over time. For instance, the number of customers remaining after every month from sign-up. This is very valuable.

Satisfaction Metrics

Net Promoter Score: How likely is it that you would recommend our company to a friend or colleague? (ligart 1-10. 1-6 is “Detractors”, 7-8 is Passives, and 9-10 is Promotes). “Maybe we didn’t have a high viral coefficient score, but we had a great satisfaction metrics.”

Emergent Metrics

Having friends inspires continuous use.

“Find the people you know” is a good example of this.