Friday, February 19, 2010

Webstock – New Zealand’s Web Conference – Day 2

I had a great day at Webstock on Day 1 and below is my synopsis of Day 2, which was also excellent. If you get the opportunity to attend Webstock, do it. Some of the key themes from the conference can be summarised as:

  • Build with love, use common reusable blocks, deploy quickly, deploy often, listen to explicit and implicit feedback from real users, understand what their needs are (not what they say they are), consider social and ethical impacts. Repeat.

The Lean Startup

Eric Ries (@ericries)

  • #leanstartup

  • Slides can be found at

  • Why build a startup?

    • Change the world

    • Build an organisation of lasting value

    • Make customers' lives better

  • Pivot: change directions but stay grounded in what you've launched

  • Speed Wins: If we can reduce time between iterations we increase chance of success.

  • In start-ups, it's all about the team

  • Shadow Beliefs:

    • We know what customers want

    • We can accurately predict the future

    • Advancing the plan is progress

  • If you're building a product that fundamentally no one wants, what does it matter that it's on schedule?

  • New plan (e.g. of a startup that worked)

    • Shipped in six months – a horribly buggy beta

    • Charged from Day 1

    • Shipped multiple times a day (by 2008, on average 50 times a day)

    • No PR, no launch

    • Results: 2009: profitable, revenue > $20MM

  • What activities are value-creating and which are waste?

  • The unit of progress with a waterfall process is getting to the next stage.

  • With Agile the Unit of Progress is a line of working code

  • Product development at lean startup unit of progress : Validated learning about customers ($$$)

  • Minimise TOTAL time through the loop: Ideas-->Build-->Code-->Measure-->Data-->Learn-->Ideas

  • Continuous Deployment

    • Deploy new software quickly

    • Tell a good change from a bad change (quickly)

    • Revert a bad change quickly

    • Work in small batches

    • Break large projects down into small batches

    • Cluster Immune System

      • Run test locally (Simple Test, Selenium)

      • Continuous Integration Server (BuildBot)

      • Incremental Deploy

      • Alerting and predictive monitoring (Nagios)

  • When customers see a failure

    • Fix, Improve your defences

  • Five whys route cause analysis: Ask “why” five times when something unexpected happens.

Iterative Design Strategies

Daniel Burka (@dburka)

  • “You're going to have an ugly baby” While you love your project, it could always be better, embrace feedback.

  • If you review your first site version and don't feel embarrassment you spent too much time on it

  • Take chances and release. Build with expectation of change. Listen and iterate.

  • “How buildngs learn: What happens after they're built” is a good book

  • With modular architecture you can build a castle in no time. This is key to rapid design.

  • Don't waste time trying to predict everything

  • Good Designers Redesign, Great Designers Realign e.g. don't dramatically change how people use a site.

  • Subtraction is iteration too. Try to remove as much as you add – don't be afraid to prune

  • Really listen to your users: Both explicit and implicit feedback are crucial

  • Digg success:

    • Get it out there

    • Add sophistication

    • Keep revising

    • Establish goals, Measure success, Set new goals

    • Customer focus group, Task analysis, Makes changes, Launch

    • Stay fit: adapt to survive and thrive - If iterative design isn't instinctual be convincing

    • People adapt well to seeing people struggling with a system. It can be used as a way to convince people a change is required.

Double Click to Edit

Amy Hoy (@amyhoy)

  • Sweaty Design: because genius is 99% perspiration.

  • Is consistency necessarily good? This can be a barrier to evolution. e.g. all blog readers look the same, n to-do list iPhone apps.

  • “To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts”: Think about the effect your site/app has on others each day

  • Invisible design is a crock of shit. e.g. Who wants an invisible Lamborghini?

    • [sg] Some things should be invisible. This is really just semantics.

  • We don't need permission to do the best we can do

  • Greatness multiplies greatness

  • You're creating change: whether or not you want to

  • Understand how people use tools and what their needs are vs just copying what others are doing

  • If you can't feel the pain you can't fix the pain.

When Your Idea Doesn't Suck: How to stop working for clients and launch a startup

Mike Davidson (@mikeindustries)

  • Mike did not want anything to be tweeted, blogged or recorded so I respect that. Whilst his speech did have some good content I didn't think it warranted being so protected.

Designing for Participation

Bek Hodgson - Blurb, Etsy

  • Etsy – marketplace for homemade stuff

  • When designing layouts consider how the page will be displayed if little or lots of content (e.g.a user's profile)

  • Sets / Collections can be useful to group lots of content. Started with company providing taxonomy then moved to user driven folksonomy.

A Baroque Aria – 10 Tips for Entrepreneurs

Kevin Rose (@kevinrose) - Digg

  • 1. Go Build It!

    • Running ideas past others isn't always the best idea

    • You don't need anyone's approval

    • If you believe in something, work nights and weekends, it won't feel like work

  • 2. Build & Release

    • List out your features for six months, sort them by importance, and build 3-4 of them

    • Stop thinking you understand your users – learn from what they're actually doing on your site, not what you think they do

    • Build, release, iterate, and repeat.

    • Feature not working, how core is it? Kill it?

  • 3. High your Boss

    • “Get people on board that understand your vision and what you are trying to create”

    • Senior positions: Only hire people you'd personally work for – make sure they can help build your vision

    • Junior positions: Hire hustlers, people that will run circles around you

    • Demand excellence: Top 1%

  • 4. Raising money

    • Beg, borrow and steal for as long as possible

    • Don't just take the cash, can they add value?

    • Super angels (50-200k) no board seats

  • 5. Go Cheap

    • Shared servers to test the waters

    • S3, cheap, fault-tolerant

    • No office (8 months no office)

    • Shared cell phone plans

    • Shared apartments (3 digg employees)

    • Part-time A players (@dburke)

  • 6. Connect with your community

    • Start a podcast (it's OK not everyone listens)

    • Throw a launch party, then yearly/quarterly events – invite the press/influencers personally – don't tell the bar (tell them it's your birthday; cheaper)

    • Engage with the community

  • 7.Hack the Press

    • Invite only system (Pownce, Digg v3)

    • Talk to the junior bloggers

    • Attend parties for events you can't afford – network with influence, bring a demo

  • 8. Advisors

    • What technical problems are you going to have?

    • Advisors can be helpful in a whole slew of areas (marketing/hiring/bizdev)

    • Stock compensation, typically not a board seat, solid advisors help during fund raising

  • 9. Leverage your user base to spread the word

    • Facebook notifications is a great example of this (e.g. Farmville and helping out farm).

    • “Tweet to complete” - used by wefollow. This asks user if they want to tweet.

  • 10. Analyze your traffic

    • Install Google Analytics

    • Entrance sources (search?)

    • Paths through site

    • Surveys

    • Top exit pages

Elements of a Networked Urbanism

Adam Greenfield (@agpublic) –

  • What do people want from technology to improve their daily life?

  • Consider the social and ethical consequences of Ubiquitous computing

  • “By the end of 2012, networked sensors will account for 20% of non-video Internet traffic” (Gartner)

  • When you walk past a camera, assume it's on, you have no privacy any more in public spaces

  • Information persists

  • Real-time sensors are becoming more prevalent. e.g. Visualisation of night-time activity in San Francisco (

  • The likes of Foursquare can drive usage patterns e.g. people will return to places just to stay the mayor or get a badge

How the Web Works

Jeff Veen (@veen)

  • Disruptive innovation: From ice to refrigirators, From typography to CSS to ...

  • We need to be “native to the web”

  • Shipping code is the way to get consensus / converge

  • Get your site out there, then iterate. iterate, iterate

  • Speed of iteration beats quality of iteration

  • The Robustness Principle: Be liberal with what you accept... and conservative in what you produce.

  • Separate interfaces from engines

  • Prototype before polishing. Get it working before you optimise

  • Design for the future, it will be here sooner than you think

    • [sg] Need to be careful to not over engineer though

Dense and Thick

Mark Pesce (@mpesce)

  • Sharing makes something more valuable

  • The web is “All things to all people”

  • The genius of Apple's iPad design is its simplicity (it is not trying to be a computer). This will impact what the Web is about to become.

  • “Augmented Reality is about to make a transition. We will soon wonder how we lived without it.”

    • e.g. Pointing a phone at a book and getting information about it

      • The device becomes the focal point

      • The book is about to be subsumed by the network

    • e.g. Beef Mince

      • Traceability back to the animal, inc carbon footprint, feed…

      • These questions will need to be on-demand to minimise our footprint on the planet

    • e.g. Medicine

      • Get info about medicine, such as if it is a poison and how it complements other medicine you're using

      • An interface to ourselves is where we are moving to

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Webstock – New Zealand’s Web Conference – Day 1

I had heard lots of great stuff about Webstock in previous years so decided to go along this year to experience it for myself. This is a very professional conference and has (mostly) excellent speakers covering a variety of Web related technologies.

Here’s my synopsis of Day 1.


Mike Brown (@maupuia)

  • You will fall in love with things that are made with love

Web Design that grabs people

Scott Thomas (@simplescott) – Design Director for Obama's campaign

  • Web and Print overlap in campaign

  • Deliver clear and concise messaging, focussed on the “We” rather than the “He”

  • Keep the message of hope while dismantling the notion of being aloof

  • Establish a consistency and balance to exemplify stability and experience

  • Persuading people was the mission of the home page therefore needed to be prominent, with localised information

  • Spend more time researching than design

  • Information architecture (inc. wireframes) is a key part of the design process but is often overlooked

  • The fold is dead

  • Recording speeches and putting up on Obama website with transcripts gave the power back to the politician not to major media.

  • The web is changing the way we interact, it is making the world smaller

  • Analytics are king. Track when people drop out of a process, how they are using a site etc.

  • No matter how complex or disorganised you think you are, understand that you can achieve great things when you have great people

Brian does the Andrew Sisters

Brian Fling (@fling)

  • “New Zealand is Yours Go there now” cheesy video clip

  • “Mobile Design and Development” O'Reilly book author

  • Context is important

  • Cost of supporting different mobile devices is high

Designing for Diversity – Inclusive Design & the User Experience

Liz Herrod (@scenariogirl)

  • Why are we segregating people?

  • Shallow personas are often used that don't take into account accessibility (poor sight, language barriers, poor hearing)

  • Why is disability intimidating?

  • Consider WCAG2 checklist

  • Work ethically; don't be lazy

Building the Open Web

Lachlan Hardy (@lachlanhardy)

  • Open Web 101: Check out OpenId, Microformats, Oauth.

  • WebFinger can connect your email address to an OpenId.

  • ActivityStreams extends Atom

  • Portable Contacts looks like a good way to access "who-you-know" information in a secure way; built around Oauth and vCard

  • URLs are important for usability. Apparently also good for SEO e.g.

  • APIs should be based on REST

  • Offer APIs (pref REST based) and relevant web feeds (ideally personalised) for your site that utilise Microformats

Security-Centred Design: Exploring the Impact of Human Behaviour

Chris Shiflett (@shiflett)

  • Ambience is an interesting concept to consider in design (e.g. ambient music when approaching a train stop, login seals)

  • Login seals (e.g. Yahoo) make phishing harder

  • Excellent example of Change Blindness given with switching between photos are trying to identify difference (hard!)

  • Password anti-pattern:

  • Accommodate users' expectation and tendencies; don't try to modify them

  • Be Humble. Arrogance attracts negative attention.

  • The Colour-changing Card Trick is awesome

Fostering Personal Connection to Place

Shelley Bernstein (@shell7) - Brooklyn Museum

  • Brooklyn Museum make things easy to find and make it easy to enjoy

  • Learn and adapt to feedback

  • Push comments up the page to foster discussion

  • With twitter be transparent about who is talking, good news and bad news.

  • Brooklyn Museum have kiosks that enable YouTube content to be uploaded from within the museum to capture public comments

  • Brooklyn Museum pulls back info from Foursquare and displays it on their website for the general public. Open APIs ftw.

  • They also worked with Foursquare to get a specific badge.

  • Use communities for moderation

  • Use crowd-sourcing to engage communities. Brooklyn Museum made a game to tag photos.

  • I like the concept of crowd-sourcing tagging of photos via a game. Crowd-sourcing has a number of opportunities

StackOverflow: Building Social Software for the Anti-Social

Jeff Atwood (@codinghorror)

  • Coding Horror blog

  • Know your audience

  • Social software for the anti-social: i.e. supports developers to ask questions and get answers

  • Voting works well with good info going to the top and allowing the person who asked the question select what they think is the best answer.

  • Have support to flag inappropriate content

  • User generated tagging enables related questions to be grouped

  • Reputation system unlocks abilities and people's answers are voted on

  • There aren't bad programmers, just programmers that haven't been taught how to write good code.

  • Work vs work ('Work' is what you're paid to do vs 'work' is what you do when you're interested and inspired)

  • Voting for new features

  • Badges are good to a) reward people and b) provide more context to others to evaluate context of answers

  • The faster your site the less friction it will have which which enable more participation.

  • No registration required: reduce barriers

  • Anybody can edit anybody's post.

Please, Don't Let it be Interactive

Regine Debatty

The Word Wild Web


  • We fall in love with things made with love & some people refuse to fall in love with things that aren't made with love.

  • ASCII Storytelling/Poetry is quite cool and Rives is great at it

  • Check out for his TED talk on ASCII Poetry

  • Rives is great at Storytelling and Poetry 2.0