Where do ideas come from?

If I am having a good day, I’ll set out on my run with a few problems to solve. By the end of an hour I may have a solution to one, three, or none. Problem solving, or ideation, is a conscious effort. In my case it’s best done away from the office and my desk.

I always said, “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.” Every great idea came out of work. Everything. If you sit around and wait for a bolt of lightning to hit you in the skull, you may never get a good idea.

Camren’s Crazy Stickers

I’ve wanted to do this for awhile but time, schedule and my son Camren’s changing interests haven’t made the stars align. But a recent query from Camren as to exactly what I do for a living, and my failure to give an adequate explanation, gave me a push to spend some time this summer giving him some experience in some of the more accessible parts of my field. First up is creating some of the silly stickers that he and his friends like to send back and forth, then some UI work on an app., then a code warrior camp and finally he can help me with some usability testing. A sort of hands on look at product development/user experience.

All our work is created in Sketch and he has taken to the app. fairly well, especially considering that he is only 11. This is his superpower I think, if the task is enjoyable he will find a way to learn, usually via YouTube. He’s become a master of minecraft, various magic tricks, and other things this way. Just don’t ask him to memorize Chinese poems. Smart kid.

His first set of stickers are available now on the app. store.

The longest lived businesses in the world aren’t the ones that were biggest in their day. Many of them are family firms, or small to mid-sized enterprises content with steady evolvement of their niche. Content with enough.
Enough by DHH

Let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.
Khalil Gibran

Bluetooth Pairing UI Fail

Logitech K380 bluetooth keyboard pairing UI is likely difficult for but the most advanced users.

I gave this keyboard, a temporary replacement to my Apple wireless, to my wife to use with her iPad – it’s a neat keyboard in theory but I never was comfortable typing on it. She now seems pretty happy with it, at least compared to typing on glass.

But for normal people this keyboard, and Apple’s for that matter, presents a UI problem. My wife wants to connect the keyboard to the iPad – at first glance how does she accomplish this task? There is nothing in this picture that supports that task, that supports her mental model of connecting 2 devices together.

She knows it’s a bluetooth keyboard, so she looks through the settings app. on the iPad and finds Bluetooth settings within which shows which devices are connected. No luck there.

So she asks.

I tell her she has to pair the devices. There is no UI to support that label. Because I have previously learned the UI from numerous other bluetooth devices I come over try long pressing the bluetooth icon and eventually we are in action. Known of that is at all obvious or learnable without outside guidance. Most bluetooth devices, especially the Apple BT keyboard I have, which has you long press the power button (!), allow users to fail in this basic task.

If we look to minimalistic or very simple UI the task should be automatic, like with Apple’s new EarPods. If we are unable to accomplish that then we need more obvious UI that directs the user to task completion – like a button with a label that has connect/pair or an icon with a universally accepted connect/pair meaning. The bluetooth icon is slowly becoming that symbol but I bet most people would not recognize it as such in tests.

We are addicted to our phones not because we rely on them, but to the extent that we recruit them to a harmful project of self-avoidance. They do not mean to hurt us. But we may – and probably do – use them to injure ourselves. Addiction sounds horrible. But it is a hard name for a normal inclination: a habit of running away from the joys and terrors of self-knowledge.
How to Live More Wisely Around Our Phones

Co-designing with Camren

Camren and I last year out for dinner.

I’m trying various activities over July with my son and perhaps some of his friends to gradually gain some insight and experience in working with children. The ultimate goal is to work with kids to develop simple software that works for them.

I’ve been fortunate to run a number of usability test sessions with kids — most were successful and changed the course of the product I was working on.

Hopefully working with children earlier in the design process will give me greater insight to what their needs are before the first or final prototypes are made.

I think it’s going to be fun.

Jakob Nielsen: Mobile Usability Futures

For all of Jacob Neilson’s work I have read, and some of the first literature I read of his was early journal articles was some 19 years ago, I don’t remember having seen or heard him do a presentation. The above is a talk he gave at Google in 2013.

Canada Day in Taiwan

The kids are still enjoy getting their face painted.

This year being Canada’s 150th birthday I decided to forgo my usual stay at home social tendencies and went with family to Taipei to enjoy the birthday celebration held by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan.

Unfortunately it rained.

While the rain cancelled most of the family friendly activities during the afternoon, it stop later and had we stayed we could have enjoyed more than our token Moosehead and listened to some live music in the park. But thats not really our thing.

Other than some Canadian-style treats, including an unconvincing poutine imitation that Sheryl lined up 30 minutes for, the highlight for me was listening to our national anthem. Don’t hear it enough.

Afterwards, we enjoyed some frozen yogurt, which was pleasantly sour, at the shopping center that sits atop and beside the bus station by the main train station. I forget the name of the shopping center, as there are so many. Before catching a bus back to Hsinchu we visited the theatre on the top floor to see if there was anything worth sticking around to see, there wasn’t, but I realized while there just how different the theaters are here than in Eastern Canada. Much better of the most part, and a far more encompassing experience. The Charlottetown moving going experience is sad by comparison.

We made it home just in time for the rain to stop.

Non-ascii characters in Bundle ID

This is a note-to-self: Don’t use Non-ascii characters in Bundle ID. I’ve made this mistake twice now causing all kinds of extra time fixing the problem.

Bundle ID should not be localized according to CFBundleIdentifier Documentation:

CFBundleIdentifier (String - iOS, macOS) uniquely identifies the bundle. Each distinct app or bundle on the system must have a unique bundle ID. The system uses this string to identify your app in many ways. For example, the preferences system uses this string to identify the app for which a given preference applies; Launch Services uses the bundle identifier to locate an app capable of opening a particular file, using the first app it finds with the given identifier; in iOS, the bundle identifier is used in validating the app’s signature.

The bundle ID string must be a uniform type identifier (UTI) that contains only alphanumeric (A-Z,a-z,0-9), hyphen (-), and period (.) characters. The string should also be in reverse-DNS format. For example, if your company’s domain is Ajax.com and you create an app named Hello, you could assign the string com.Ajax.Hello as your app’s bundle identifier.

If you can’t explain it to a 5 year old …

One of the consistent problems I have faced both as a result of a highly irregular career path (I don’t even like the word career), and my own extremely broad interests, is that answering the inevitable “what do you do?” question inevitably leads to a stuttered response on my part.

This problem in no small part has been a result of living in Taiwan for 18 years, where design specialization is a difficult path to take.

My responses have been purposely vague and often include the titles designer, design manager or engineer. Inquisitive people, like my son, often want more detail and that’s where I usually start to fail. How to explain my work, experience, and/or my interests to non-practioners, which is to say just about everyone.

Last December I attempted to do just that, as I was required to do so as part of 3+ month evaluation presentation. I wrote the following:

For over 20 years I have worked with organisations to help them build applications, websites, music, and other digital products that work for real people.

I’m a maker, love my craft, and enjoy working with others to realise a products vision. I have experience, and am comfortable, working in a variety of roles.

我有著20年的經驗幫助各類組織製作應用、網頁、音樂 、提升使用者體驗、以及開發其他幫助人們實現其 目標的數碼產品。

我是一個製造者,我愛我的手藝,並樂於同其他人一 同努力實現產品目標。 我有著豐富經驗,能夠適應在 工作中扮演不同的角色。

I don’t like it but it served it’s purpose at the time, particularly the Chinese version.

The problem with these couple of paragraphs is that they don’t actually explain anything. And the term maker in English has all kinds of connotations that I don’t want.

So this is a problem I hope to solve over the next couple weeks as I make some time for a healthy does of introspection and define some further focus for the next few months.

Somehow, we must find again our sense of individual values, lost in this century of enormous technological advance. This very freedom that mechanical aids are giving us has welded us into unmanageable megalopolises, where people are anonymous numbers and where communication with our fellow man seems a minus quantity. We must restore the warmth and spirit we had in the smaller community. I hope that in our leisure time we will once again know our neighbor — and, if everyone knows his neighbor and learns to live with him, the entire world will be at peace.
Henry Dreyfuss, Designing for People [Dreyfuss 1955, p. 261]

Charging Station – China, Fujian

The result of months of early morning noise becomes apparent. The above is one of many new electric car charging stations on the NetDragon campus. Small electric vehicles and scooters are everywhere in Fuzhou and area. However they have made it happen, it’s something that Taiwan, and parts of Canada could stand to emulate.