Friday, December 14, 2007

When cruft creeps in

A thoughtful fairly short post from 37 signals about cleaning up your UI from time to time.

The Ten Faces of Innovation

The ten Faces of Innovation by Tom Kelly of IDEO describes 10 roles usually found in innovative groups. Now, this isn't one of my usually book summary/reviews. Mainly because I do not have to. Someone did all the hard work up front. Read the first chapter of the book at Fast Company: and get a more detailed list of the ten roles at the book website:

And then go read the book :)

It is well written, with good stories, and it felt reinvigorating and got me thinking about all the things I know we should do that we don't, and gave me some ideas for getting better.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

Roberts' book "Lovemarks" does not, in my opinion, provide enough believable examples of products that people actually love. Malcolm Gladwell's "the Tipping Point" does. Roberts talks about the inherent qualities of your service and your product, what I would call the Foundation for love. Gladwell explains why some products become loved but more specifically, how a product goes from being loved by a few to being liked by many.

Gladwell's starting point is "word of mouth". What is it and why is it effective. That investigation led him to social epidemics and he looks into what the makes something go from a phenomenon among an elite to a widespread fashion. What tips an idea over the edge from obscurity to common understanding. Why is Youtube so popular and not one of the many other video sites that came up at the same time. How did Google go from relative obscurity to being the defacto standard for search and why did the non-skateboarding youth adopt AirWalk so sales climbed from 4 millions to 64 millions. What is it that pushes something over the tipping point.

Here is a summary of Gladwell's book. This time without page numbers as I listened to the audio book rather than read it.

Mavens, Connectors, and Salesmen

Gladwell finds that it takes three kinds of people to tip an idea:

  • Mavens (one who accumulates knowledge)
  • Connectors
  • And Salesmen

Mavens are the MVPs of the world. Enthusiasts and specialists. Is there a person whom you would ask about car purchases, wine, or maybe even soap? Someone who knows a lot about the subject matter and who is also, and this is essential, genuinely interested in helping you and sharing his or her knowledge. Those are the Mavens of the world.

Connectors are people who collect people. They have many interests and know people from many different backgrounds. And they want to connect them, make them meet and see what happens.

Salesmen are translators. They translate between innovators, either a company or some sub culture, and the crowd. Salesmen are the ones who take a a trend among hipsters and twists and turns it ever so slightly to make it fit in with the larger masses, hence making it acceptable and digestible for them.

Gladwell describe a series of epidemics, both sickness and social, where each of the roles played a key part. There is the story about AirWalk that hired a fashion Maven and an advertising company (salesman) to boost sales significantly. There is AIDS and Syphilis spreading through connectors, and there is Lexus who succeeded because they understood that in the beginning, they were selling primarily to mavens, and by treating them very well, they would spread the word.

The three laws of epidemics

Through these examples, Gladwell gets to the three laws of epidemics:

  • The law of the few
  • The stickiness factor
  • and the Power of Context

The law of the few basically states that only few people matter when an epidemic spreads. It was a few very sexually active people that spread the Syphilis epidemic in Baltimore, and a few people who started the Hushpuppy (shoes) epidemic.

An ideas with low stickiness factor will not, well…, stick. What makes something sticky depends on the subject matter, but a common thread is that if people have to do something to comprehend the message, they are more vested in it and it sticks better. The examples given are from Sesame street and Blue's Clues, both children television, that are sticky because the children have to work to understand them.

The chapters on the Power of Context uses the stark drop in crime in New York based on a zero tolerance politics as its main argument. By focusing on the details, you set the context for what is and isn't acceptable and change the overall behavior. The other chapter on the Power of Context is about how many people we as human beings can deal with, turns out to be 150, and explains why introducing something to us in a smaller context makes it possible to understand.

Is there a Cure ?

An epidemic is (can be) a disease. And diseases have cures. People become immune. Immunity is what makes fashion trends die, and renders marketing schemes useless. Immunity is the reason telemarketing and spam works less and less. Gladwell, does not cover immunity further except in the chapter on AirWalk and how they stayed fresh.

How can we use this book?

If we look back on Roberts' book on "Lovemarks" the reason to get an emotional connection is essentially, in Gladwell's terms to build context and make the product sticky.

When we look at our MVP engagements in terms of Mavens and learn from Lexus, we can see that we do right in focusing on the few, and in treating them exceptionally well.

We can also use this book to understand why some small technology companies grow big and why some do not. And we can think about how we stay fresh and do not make people immune to our message.

From a strategy perspective, this book is a good help in thinking about how we roll out new IT management paradigms, both in how we drive adoption internally, and in how we sell it externally. The book can also be used to help us think about how we change the engineering culture of Microsoft. And somewhere in the back of my head the little Toyota-Apple bird keeps chattering about zero tolerance and continuous improvement… Both initiatives that, taken out of context, and without the right set of Maven, Connectors, and Salesmen are sure to be doomed. But maybe, just maybe if we had….

Final thoughts

I like listening to Malcolm Gladwell's audio books. He has a wordy style with lots of good stories mixed in that makes his books good substitutes for non-fiction. Good for entertainment during the commute. I also like his books because he gets a lot out of a narrow topic. "Blink", his other book shares the same qualities and if you want to know why we need salesmen to translate from the elite to the crowd, I think blink is a good starting point.

Both of Gladwell's books have made it into what I consider the canon of new business literature along with Freakonomics, The Long Tail, and The Paradox of Choice among others.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Lovemarks –the Future beyond brands

Lovemarks –the future beyond brands by Kevin Roberts, CEO Worldwide, Saatchi & Saatchi. ISBN: 1-57687-270-x

How do you make products that people will not only think are great products, but products that they will be loyal too beyond reason? The classic examples of Lovemarks are Apple, Harley Davidson, Zippo, and Coca Cola. Products that all live up to the definition of love in Kevin Robert's book: "Loyalty beyond reason".


Roberts' gives some interesting and helpful advice but packages it in a whole lot of noise about Saatchi & Saatchi, Proctor and Gamble, and adds even more noise to the message through a rather busy book layout. If you can get beyond all the noise however, there are important lessons to be learned from this book.

Go to to get a taste of what it is all about. Well, what the end result is about and what the surface looks like. Then read the book to understand what is behind it.

Roberts' core thesis is that with an ever increasing array of products, we need to move beyond brands. Brands are built upon respect, but only demands loyalty within reason. Beyond that point lays Lovemarks, built on the company's love and respect for their customer and in return given love and loyalty beyond what you could reasonably expect by their customers.

If you do not believe humans are powered by emotion rather than by reason or that emotions matter in product design, read the first couple of chapters and spend some time reading up on car design, or hang out on some Apple fan boy websites. If you just want to get to the "How" part, here is a list of interesting passages in the book:

Pages 42-45: Primary and secondary emotions

Primary emotions: Brief and intense

Secondary Emotions: More complex and combine the head with the heart














Page 52: Six truths about love

  1. Human beings need love, without it they die
  2. Love means more than liking a lot. Love is about a profound sense of attachment.
  3. Love is about responding, about delicate, intuitive sensing. Love is always two way.
  4. Love is not just one kind of relationship. There is love between spouses, family members and between friends. For Kevin Roberts it is about Bruce Springsteen concerts, Saturday nights, and a cold Becks beer.
  5. Love takes rime. Love has history, love gives us meaning and makes us who we are.
  6. Love cannot be commanded or demanded. It can only be given.

While some of this may seem banal if you are talking about love between people, I think an interesting passage because it emphasizes what Roberts is really talking about, and just how radically he means it. I especially like number 2 in the context of product design. We are talking about more than "liking a lot".

Pages 60-63: Respect, a foundation for love

Respect is a pre-requisite for love.

  • Perform, perform, perform: Respect grows out of peak performance at every interaction
  • Pursue innovation: Continuous improvement (kaizen)
  • Commit to total commitment: The active consumer judges you at every encounter
  • Make it easy: If it is hard to use, it will die
  • Don't hide: People can respect you only if they know who you are
  • Jealousy guard your reputation: Reputation is built over a lifetime and destroyed in a second
  • Get in the lead and stay there
  • Tell the truth: Front up, be open. Admit mistakes. Don't cover up, it will get you every time.
  • Nurture Integrity:
  • Accept responsibility: take on the biggest responsibility of all –to make the world a better place for everyone
  • Never pull back on service: Service is where transactions are transformed into relationships.
  • Deliver great design: If you are not aesthetically stimulating and functionally effective you just merge into the crowd.
  • Don't underestimate value: Both dollar value and perception of value. Only if people perceive the value as higher than the cost will they respect the deal you offer
  • Deserve trust:
  • Never, ever fail the reliability test: Expectations skyrocket> Cars always start the first time, the coffee's always hot, the ATM is always open…

"it is a tough list. Demanding and uncompromising. Don't even dream about Lovemark Status unless you can tick off each and every item"

Page 70: Difference between Brand and Lovemark





Recognized by consumers

Loved by people



Presents a narrative

Creates a Love story

The promise of quality

The touch of sensuality







Defined Attributes

Wrapped in mystery




Passionately creative

Advertising Agency

Ideas company


Pages 74-79 Mystery, Sensuality, and Intimacy.

"Lovemarks are not owned by the manufactures, the producers, the businesses. They are owned by the people who love them."

Principles of Lovemarks:

  • Be passionate. Consumers can smell a fake a mile off. If you are not in love with your own business, they won't be either.
  • Involve customers: Involve customers in product design
  • Celebrate loyalty:
  • Find, tell, & retell great stories
  • Accept responsibility: love is two ways. If people love your product, you have to love them back with everything that includes.

Mystery, Sensuality, and Intimacy is what makes a truly great product stand out.

Chapter 8-10 (pages 81-144) is about Mystery, Sensuality, and Intimacy. Too much to list here. If you go read the book, then at least browse these chapters. If you then want to use it, go read the chapters.

P 149. Respect and Love graph


My opinion of the book

I like the thoughts in this book. I really do. I also think that the content is relevant for making great products. But Lovemarks? I would like to go back to one of six truths about love: "Love cannot be commanded or demanded. It can only be given." And that is where I think the book if not the thinking breaks down. Kevin Roberts does give a recipe for building products that is beyond our normal definition of great, products that have the potential to be more than just good products and be great experiences through not only the product itself, but the connection with the organization behind it and the other people who enjoy the product. This piece about the organization cannot be underplayed. I have spoken about products throughout this review, but really it is more than that. It is an organization connecting to people through products and services. However, most of Kevin Roberts' examples fall short. Both his examples of how Saatchi & Saatchi has helped turn brands in to Lovemarks and the testimonials on the website and the in the book about products people love leave out one crucial piece of information/context. Most of the testimonials people give are about products that they like a lot, not products that they love. And if they love a product, it is usually because it reminds them of their actual childhood or a person they love. Not because of some story, however compelling, that happened to someone else.

Does it work? Yes! I think Kevin Roberts prove beyond doubt that if you do everything he suggests, you will sell more products, and you will make more people happy and more loyal to your brand. But you can't engineer love, you can only put the bricks in place so that some (few) people will make that extra jump. And I think Kevin Roberts' book, despite all the noise, does provide a good direction for how you can make it more likely that some people will make the jump. But I think he makes promises where none should be made.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Friday, July 27, 2007

The user experience: The iceberg analogy of usability

Dick Berry

An older article but still relevant, the article talks about how user experience is more than look and feel. It elaborates on the importance of the user model in understanding who the users with regards to their skills and motivations. Read article

Monday, July 2, 2007

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Happiness and design

It is all about creating products that people will love, or is it? Maybe it is about making products that make people happy. But what makes happiness or love? I would venture that products that show embedded intelligence and embedded emotions i.e. knows what you are trying to do / knows your business and lets you do hard things easily or in other words give you the surprise of Wow, that was easy, are good candidates. However, it takes more. It takes being able to make them yours and that can happen in many ways, like the VW beetle that you put flowers on or the piece of software that you can customize to work just the way you want. Emacs springs to mind.

I think love is secondary and not really the goal. KRS One said it very well so long ago "love is an overused word, love you car, love you watch. You should love yourself and other human beings, not things" (paraphrased). Things can make you happy though if they work for you, not against you. And if they are willing to become yours and help you express yourself. It is the combination of the value add/ signal value of a brand/product + what it actually lets you do to it. It is the "i am part of the Emacs tribe + I have mastered Emacs and it bids my will" or the "I am part of the Porsche tribe and I relax when I drive with the top down".

I am really just thinking out loud here, but I think that happiness is an achievable goal while love may not be. Or maybe it i, but with product love comes cult, and with cult comes elitism and it is hard to sell to everybody when you are an elite product. And yep, Apple makes elite products but they mainstream them. The Ipod is not an elite product, it is a commoner’s tool that makes happy, but not love.

Friday, June 22, 2007

I really did like them...

Microsoft Office's adaptable menus get a lot of flag. And I do not get it. I really like the adaptale menus. They cut away the crud, the stuff I do not use or want to use. I kinda miss them in other programs

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Just make it work

David Platt ( ) has a good and fortunately very popular talk here at Teched on "Why your software sucks" aimed at the very developers that write the software. IT is basic stuff like "your users are not you" but David Platt's examples and instance on "Just make it work" makes me reconsider some of what I have been thinking about for our Group Policy designs. Are we really making it just work?


So making GP just work is one thing. Hard to do because you can easily be overwhelmed by all the things you also make the software do and all the complexity you could expose. But the notion talks well to my corner stone thought that you have to build in knowledge about what people should do.


But how do you accomplish "Just make it work" and "you are always building a platform"? The latter is just as important  as it states that the role of a design team is to make a UI that lets you, the person who paid us to work for you, able to recompose, reconfigure, and mash together a new use for our software that we did not anticipate. How do we anticipate your next move and at the same time let you redefine what your next moves are going to be in the future.


I can't say I have an answer yet. I think we have to separate the focus. You always have access to the data. But we make a purposeful UI based on one understanding of you. Maybe that is too old fashioned, too old school. Hmmm, still thinking.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Security going the way of Usability

Steve Riley, a Microsoft Security strategist, spoke today about balancing security concerns against usability and cost. Steve is an excellent speaker and made some great points about what is basically risk assessment/management.

Steve’s focus on economics and on rephrasing all security questions as economic questions reminds me a whole lot about usability discussions over the past decade or so. Security, Performance, and Usability share the characteristic of being basically not-interesting. They are assumed and only considered when they are absent. No one buys a product because it is secure, performs well, or is usable UNLESS that is not the standard in the category and then that is just an indication of an immature product category. The trio of Security, Performance, and Usability plays the role of the base-guitar of any product. It lays the foundation for a great user experience, but it does not make up a product.

In his 1994 book “Usability Engineering” Jakob Nielsen spends a long time on ROI, talking the language of the C-level folks and so on. Same path as Steve is walking with security now. And I believe the future for at least Security and Usability will also share many characteristics. Usability went from after the fact quality control to a design discipline and is making its inroads into product definition and strategic asset. In other words, Usability as a discipline has moved from cost center to primary value generator.

Some of the talks I have seen here at TechEd leads me to believe that Security could take a similar role. Security is not about fiddling with settings, but about making IT behave in a way that gives the business a competitive edge. If for instance the IT department can demolish the stupid wall between inside the firewall vs. outside the firewall and give all employees access to company resources regardless of location or computer, then a major hurdle will have been removed for when & where to work and will ultimately make the company more competitive and productive. If security can enable this scenario, then that is a strategic business initiative, not some after the fact patch update or firefighting.


I am at TechEd in Orlando and it is super cool. First of all, the entire conference is extremely well planned and executed. Second, the content is really good. Third, regardless of what people may think about MS I think DevDiv and Server spit out one fantastic product after another.

All the WPF stuff including the VS support, Blend, Design, and latest Silverlight is just pure plain awesome.

Server 2008 is great. System Center Essentials is mega cool. heck, loads of good stuff.

And we also have stuff that just suck or products with really exiting technology wraped in a horrible UI. But I think our new products have decent to great UI and there are fewer and fewer of the "arrg, that sucks" products. All goodness.

The constants of life

The principle of non-contradiction
a constant
in my and your life
despite what people say
They just do not understand
that it is a constant
like reorgs.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Designing for Interaction

I just finished "Designing for Interaction" and will say it was a really good and relatively fast read.

Most of the content should be known to most of you. Like chapter 6 that goes through various controls and their usages. The author does however draw some good analogies between physical and digital controls.

Interesting moments of the book:

The epiphany in chapter 4 on design research. I keep calling us a "design team" even though I know it annoys some of our user researchers. I think it would make sense to rename the user research profession in MS to Design Research. What we ultimately do is to conduct the research necessary to drive, inform, and challenge the design. A lot of that has to do with users, but not all of it. I think renaming it to Design Research would change the focus and expand the focus in a healthy way.

Chapter 7 and the discussion of "hackability" and of "adaptive" UI. It was an interesting read in general and furthered my long held belief that "you are always designing a platform" i.e. you have to assume that your product will be used in ways you did not imagine and you should embrace that and encourage that. Offhand (and I would be happy to discuss off-line) it led me to some thought about how we need a community around Models (additions and changes to CML) and how we can (mis-)use the CMDB and the Local CMDB to move personalizations, explicit and implicit, around in an environment. Suffice to say it could be done with policies J

Chapter 8 on Service Design is really interesting from the perspective of what the UX discipline could ultimately become once we start being more active in the design of how we sell servers, the SKUs, and all that stuff.

Throughout the book there is food for thought on the difference between user centered design (personas), activity based design (scenarios), and I must say, that I currently believe in the role based design approach , and I see that as a good unifier for user & activity based design. User centered design is too concerned with the goal of the user and activity based design is too concerned with the scenario sans-role. My role is Exchange admin. Because of that, I have some goals and some activities I need to complete. But sometimes my role changes to just ordinary server admin or to security admin and those secondary roles require a different UI for me than they would for a person with the primary role of server admin or security admin.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

John Bolton on John Stewart

I am watching Jon Stewart on Comedy Central and his guest is John Bolton and this is super interesting. I may not agree with Mr. Bolton but he is one of the few guests on any show that has survived well. I would say that for once the host did not destroy the guest. Quite unexpected.

Bolton has some interesting views about democracy that basically goes along this line: You vote for a president and hence a way of running the country in other words you should expect the president to replace everyone in the administration with people who agree with him. John Stewart disagrees and thinks that the president should suround himself with people who can question him. It goes on into an interesting and equal discussion.

Interestingly enough this reminds me of the destinction between Denamrk and Sweden. In Sweden the leading party has a history of replacing people in the administration with people of the same political orientation. In Denmark, this is much less common, and usually happens on a smaller scale.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Looking back

When old men look back
They don't
Regret not
Spending more time in the office

I know this now
Not old
Just know That
I shall regret other things

But today I choose to spend more
Time in
The office
Because I like the drug

Like the coffee and the candy
Self esteem boost
Work needs doing and work needs me

A good cause

Live messenger has made a really cool marketing push. Everytime you use messenger you support a cause of your choosing. You can choose from 9 causes. At least you can in the US.

All you have to do is add the cause' tag to your name in messenger. Instructions

Yes it is marketing but it is also so much more. And it is well in line with Microsof tbeing the company in the world tht donates the most amount of money to all kinds of causes.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Moving files with Powershell

After I reinstalled my computer all the fonts I had gotten of design magasines CDs were gone. I had used one of the fonts in a t-shirt design which was now broken so I had to get them back on my PC. It had been a real pain getting them off the CDs in the first place since most of the mwere either zipped or in a folder and since Vista cannot have folders in its fonts folder (which in itself is stupid) then I had to go through each folder an manually copy the file I wanted to the system Font folder.

Not this time...

The culpits were a selection of fonts from FG. I put all those folders in a new folder:
C:\FGfontTest> and created a sub-folder C:\FGfontTest\OTFonts>
Here is the content of one of those font folders

PS C:\FGfontTest\FGAddiction> ls

Directory: Microsoft.PowerShell.Core\FileSystem::C:\FGfontTest\FGAddiction

Mode LastWriteTime Length Name
---- ------------- ------ ----
-a--- 4/22/2006 5:47 PM 4036 FGAddiction.afm
-a--- 4/22/2006 5:47 PM 481 FGAddiction.inf
-a--- 4/22/2006 5:47 PM 55080 FGAddiction.otf
-a--- 4/22/2006 5:47 PM 66649 FGAddiction.pfb
-a--- 4/22/2006 5:47 PM 731 FGAddiction.pfm
-a--- 4/22/2006 5:44 PM 84604 FGAddiction.ttf
-a--- 5/16/2006 6:52 PM 961 fontgarden.txt

I wanted to move all the OTF files to the OTFonts folder. After quite a bit of mocking around I finally got it to work with this script:
PS C:\FGfontTest> Get-ChildItem ./f* -recurse -include *.otf | Move-Item -dest C:\FGfontTest\OTFonts

I didn't come up with this all by myself. My first attempts were along the lines of
PS C:\FGfontTest> foreach ($d in dir f* )
>> { Move-Item $d C:\FGfontTest\OTFonts -filter *.otf }

which did not work.

Finaly example 4 in Get-Help Move-Item -detailed got me unblocked. Get-Childitem (alias is GCI) has a parameter called -recurse which essentially lets you do what I tried to do in the foreach loop only it can dig into arbitrary levels of folders.

Anyway, fonts are moved and now backed up so I won't have to go thorough this next time I install a PC. The cool thing is that Powershell let me do do a repetivie task across many folder with one line of code


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Tomato Juice

Tomato juice is, like olives, an aquired taste. But it has its purposes. It is the closest thing to fluid food that is readily available in the office. Good for the hunger.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Talk to the competitive in people

Talk to the competitive in people when you build software. Let people compete against themselves or others if it makes sense at all. Ask yourself if your software handles something that can be measured, for instance time on data entry, and whether it makes sense to measure.

What can be measured?
Time and money are usually easy to measure and compare. You can measure the time it takes to complete a task or the amount of money someone has spend or earned.

What makes sense to measure?
Will you application be used in an environment where people care about what you can measure? Call center software is a great example. Usually the goal of management is for each call to take as little time as possible, if however you take that mentality to say an in-house call center where it is more important that the calling employee is completely unblocked than the number of calls processed per employee, then you may screw the dynamics in the wrong direction. If you reward high throughput, in your software, then that will produce high throughput behavior and that may not be what the business want.

But if your application will be used in an environment where measurements are valued, then your software should support it.

Call centers, sales applications, data entry applications, and fitness programs are obvious candidates for showing how you perform against your targets, against your previous performance and your colleagues' performance. Point of sale applications is another area where it makes perfect sense to emphasize corporate procedures/politics. Harvard business review had an article in the Winter 06 edition about great managers. One of the examples was from a Walgreens shop. Apparently employees are rewarded based on a 'Suggestive selling program'. Basically Walgreens focuses on a few items, put them near the cashier, and when you are about to pay, they ask you if you also want one of those items. If you end up buying it, they are rewarded on that extra sale. Here is an opportunity to help the employees remember how well they are doing against others and themselves. Let them see how much they have sold, how much the average employee have sold etc. Help them remember, help them focus, and help corporate strategy blossom though talking to the competitive in each of those cashiers.

It is all about talking to the basic human instincts.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


Vista ultimate and Office ultimate. Visual studio, WPF, Blend and Graphic Designer. SmartFTP and Itunes. And of course Powershell. Upgraded my computer today to the modern day and age. ahhh.

Friday, February 16, 2007


Want to be over

To reach what I think
I should
In the horizon