SXSW 2009: Therapy 2.0: Mental Health for Geeks

Tuesday, March 17, 2009 3:30 PM
Keely Kolmes,
Thomas Roche,

Session Description

What can you do to stay mentally healthy in a Web 2.0 world? Come share your strategies for staying sane in the world that never really turns off. Learn self-care tips for managing work and stress. Discover how to manage social networking while keeping your boundaries intact.


Information Anxiety was brought up and discussed for a while. On this topic people were mentioning the non-privacy of social media. Since this non-private social (ironic, I know) media is public your health insurance company could use twitter to find out if you’re doing healthy things and raise your premiums. Personally I would suggest not posting it if you’re going to be that person.

It seems that most people are going back to the lack of privacy on twitter. As people post things it creates a level of online social-drama. People need to evolve and realize they can be online an choose not to post innapropriate things if they do not want people to find them.

From person to person your views on what is mentally healthy varies. Studies have shown that exercise is the best way to improve your mental health. If you believe you have, or you’re being bothered by, mental health issues then you probably do. It is poor mental health if you’re always worrying about this.

People recommend getting something in life where they can have a mental break through a new hobby that is completely opposite from what you do for your job. Someone mentioned they took up Tai-chi for exercise and an escape from what they typically do in a day-to-day basis. I know a lot of times I personally will go home and never turn my laptop on all night. Some people I work with feel that I am crazy for doing that. To be honest, sometimes when I’m away from work I want to be away from work. It sounds like many people are referring to the same theory and are staying away from technology outside of work to help with mental health.

People feel music, such as ambient, is also a good stress release. Someone mentioned listening to ambient music while they sleep. Someone else mentioned a sleeping sound tool called Awake2000.


email – drkkolmes(at) and skidroche(at)
website –

SXSW 2009: Designers and Developers: Why cant we all just get along?

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009 11:30 AM
Chris Lea, Lead Architect for Media Temple/Virb
Liz Danzico, The School of Visual Arts
Ryan Sims, Lead Designer for Virb
Joe Stump, Lead Architect for Digg
Daniel Burka, Creative Dir for Digg/Pownce
Andy Beaumont, UX Dir for Flutter + Wow
Rob Corradi, Creative Dir for NeonState

Panel Description

Often times designers and developers’ relationships are contentious. Designers want features that would require two Googles to run and developers want features that nobody but the nerdiest of the nerds would care about. This panel will showcase some of the top designers and developers who have worked through their differences and feel they’re making better products as a result. Sometimes designers know users’ needs best and sometimes developers can enhance a feature with their innate understanding of the system. Knowing this, why can’t we all just get along?

“Developers work on the code and see Designers as pixel perfect.” This panel seems like it will be pretty bias toward the Designer, and kind of against the Developer. 🙁

Everyone wants to be involved in a project, but to be honest it isn’t always practical. If everyone needs to be involved in every stage of the process, how to you deligate that? It is important to have both the developers and the designers throughout the entire process. If you do not you’ll get a project that will fail. Joe Stump for Digg suggested taking some time and thinking about what addition you want to add to the project. This way you will not just bring a solution to a large group/audience and cause confusion for them all.

If a developer says he cannot program the website to work with the design provided he is either a poor developer, or he’s lieing. Every design can be developed to work.

Questions and Answers

Questions and answers were turned in on color-coded index cards. Over 100 were from designers, and only 10 were from developers. A joke was made explaining why only 10 were turned in by developers basically saying that “designers are just more smart and already know” or “developers just don’t care.”

What if Designers learned the basis of coding so they know what is possible?
The more the developers take time to help the designer then the more they’ll understand what is easy, and what isn’t. And this process just takes time to finally learn this tool set and meet in the middle ground.

How much should developers be allowed to drive design? Or should they just give direction and take a back seat?
It depends on rather developers are involved in the features at a high level, and that the designers need to be involved in what they’re best at: design. Developers should let the designer know what can and cannot be done in the preliminary design. Sometimes the designer just does not know the developer has the data or the ability to do things above and beyond.

Should designers make more money? So they match with developers?
The panelists basically said they feel the designers they know get a competitive rate for what they do.

Can developers do everything, although they sometimes say they cannot?

How do the designer and developer dynamics change based on the size of the company?
As a developer there are periods where you need to nerd up with other nerds and do nerdy things in your little bubble. But as times are changing we almost need to build a bridge over the gap and get more involved with the designers. Even going out to lunch with them and just talking with them to get that one-on-one interaction with them.

How does one push design when developers do not want to learn new technologies?
Fire the developer. Challenging them with shame is also good, such as, “I thought you were a good developer?”

Are there any good books you’d recommend?
Design Patterns was recommended for designers to understand developer processes.

I’m a designer that’s for the developer, but I get a lot of slack for being a “traitor,” how should I balance this?
First off, calling them a “traitor” just shows that you’re not even playing for the same team.

Agile is a way for designers and developers to get together. Why are designers against it more?
Designers tend to design for Web 10.0 and not Web 2.0 and that gets away from the whole concept of Agile development. However, a designer still needs the vision and cohesiveness to know where they’re going in years from now.

CSS can be learned by designers, but can it be learned by developers?
As a developer it is exciting to learn what the design process is, that mental flow, and how its thought through to give it to the end user/client. This is a valuable resource to know, and if you have developers who are resistant to learn that then try to teach them what benefits it has.

Projects managers cause rucus, how do we tell them that?
The best types of managers are those who become the mediators to make sure there is a steady flow of communication and meet with the clients. Some managers try to incorporate everyone’s ideas, and that doesn’t work so it ends up getting messy.

Tell us the best fight you’ve had between designers/developers and how it got patched up.
The green badges on the Digg website was causing a lot of slow downs and the designers wanted it, but the developers couldn’t get it to work right. So now they’re dedicating a tremendous amount of resources to get it right.

Ending Remarks

For the designers out there think ahead of time what you don’t have to do in real time. Think about things like: “what if you only had to show this feature once per hour?” Start thinking how you can be less intensive for your asynchronous design.

Hang out with people you normally wouldn’t. Hang out with the people in your office who are on the opposite team so you can start to learn more about them. It helps you and them emotionally.

You need to get over the thought that designers and developers are both against each other. Get over the notion of people being “traitors.”

Instead of phraising things as “features” instead use “problems” and “challenges.” This will seem more appealing to the developers.

SXSW 2009: Photojournalism in 2009 and The Big Picture

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009 10:00 AM
Taylor, The Big Picture

Taylor, who posts to this blog, does not take the actual pictures, he finds really good pictures from multiple photographers and puts them all in one place. Taylor grew up in Washington State and worked in Alaska as a tour guide for many years. When in college he realized he was not a good photographer, but he knew what photos did look good. So, Taylor then joined up with the Boston Globe.

SXSW 2009: Back Off Man, I’m a Scientist: User Generated Discovery

Monday, March 16th, 2009 5:00 PM
Dariene Cavalier, Founder of Science Cheerleader
Matthew Shindell, PhD Candidate for University of California San Diego
Kevin Schawinski, Postdoctoral Associate for Yale University
Jon Wiley, Senior User Experience Designer for Google

Broad access to vast amounts of raw data, along with ever more powerful tools, have given everyday people the ability to make significant contributions to scientific inquiry and enrich our understanding of the Universe. See how passionate amateurs are addressing the fundamental questions of our world.

Citizen Science or Grassroots Science is the scientific theories of user generated discovery. Science across different time periods means very different things. Science at any given time is also not unified.Emergence of ne wdiciplines often means fighting between existing diciplines, including arguments about whose science is “real” and whose is “amateurish.” Scientists do not share a universal meaning to the word “Science” nor do they share a unified purpose.

I left 19 minutes into the session… I didn’t care for it.

SXSW 2009: Change Your World in 50 Minutes: Making Breakthroughs Happen

Monday, March 16th, 2009 3:30 PM
Kathy Sierra, CreatingPassionateUsers

Gain real-world ideas for markedly improved productivity from an industry expert and passionate apeaker who always inspires SXSW audiences.

Incremental releases causes Arms Race. There are two types of Arm Races. The two types are quality and feature. There are 15 different ways to have breakthroughs. Your ability and time are greatly influenced in how good your final product is.

Word of Mouth (WOM) vs. Word of Obvious (WOO)

Someone being better goes a lot farther than saying you’re better.

Are you stuck in the grove of what you’re confortable with? That is the same reason why people do not want to upgrade their products to your latest version, because they’re worried about the changes that will occur.

How to know someone:

  1. iPod Playlists and…
    Answer this one question, “Flight or  Invisibility?” Then ask, “What superpower do we give our users?”
  2. Superset Game
    What coller thing is my thing a part of?
    ie: you sell kitchen appliances on your web site, but the cool thing is people are cooking and using it.
    If you blog about your company, that’s probably not the coolest thing you could be blogging about.
  3. Shortcuts
    Outliers: 10,000 hours
    Learn the patterns, and shorten the duration. If you can get the patterns out of experts heads then you can shorten the 10,000 hours.
  4. Deliberate Practice
    Kicking ass in < 1,000 hours. But 1,000 hours in what? After 1-2 years, experience is a poor predictor of performance/expertise.
    Work on your Strengths, do not work on your Weaknesses.
  5. Make the right things easy and the wrong things hard
    Make it easier for users to…
    Treadmill gathering cobwebs? It’s not in the corner because you don’t use it, you don’t use it because it’s in the corner.
  6. Get better gear (and offer it)
    A lot of times the more expensive equipment is more expensive because its better. People will understand that although something costs more to purchase it, they’ll understand that it is better and makes them better. You have to help them justify it. Find, make, offer higher-end gear that bumps them to a new level.
  7. Ignore Standard Limitations
  8. Total Immersion Jams
    16 hours over two days vs. 16 hours over two months. How often you get your users to do things depends on how much productivity they’ll get done.
    Ad Lib Game Development Society: they were so busy at work, they ended up getting together over a weekend and force themselves to fully develop a game.
    “The surest way to guarantee nothing interesting happens is to assume you know exactly how to do it.”
  9. Change your perspective
    Don’t make a better [X], make a better [user of X].
  10. What movie are your users in?
    Everyone is on a journy with your product of service. Who are your user’s allies and mentors? What does your tech suppoer look like to them?
    Your company is to your user as ____ is to Frodo. Most people would quickly say Ring, but maybe you should think into it more?
    Exercise: What movie are your users in? What movie do they WANT to be in?
  11. Don’t ask your users.
    Incremental? Ask your users what tweaks you should be making. Although you listen to your users, what they say and what they want are two different things. You should also ask other people’s users.
  12. Be Brave
    Although it is a Concept Car, the Actual Car is never the same thing. What happened between the fantastic idea and the real thing?
  13. Rethink Deadness
    Do not ask your users for inovation. If you were to ask your users what they want, then they wouldn’t imply the smartest idea. However, people are getting more and more closer to being able to answer that question better. If Ford Moters asked their users what they wanted, they would have said, “Faster Horses.” But even if they did look into increasing the power of horses they’d see that $40,000,000,000 are spent each year on that recreational hobby.
  14. Change the Equalizer (EQ)
    This is the standard way people look at making incremental improvements. If you want to make incremental changes then move the sliders. If you want to make new breakthroughs then add new sliders. Check out this neat slider tool. Gary Vaynerchuck from Wine Library appeared on stage to talk about his.
  15. Don’t mistake narrow for shallow
    52,000 Google hits: lolcats+translation
  16. Be Amazed
    “Everything is amazing right now, and no one is happy.”