Things I've Posted in ‘Entries’

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#Design Sprints, #UX

Design Sprints

I went to Chicago Camps UX Camp last weekend and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. From the opening keynote right on through to the final session discussing content modeling, the day was packed with information that I can bring back to my freelance work and primary job. It was a full 14 hours of driving and learning that was rather tiring, enlightening, and everything in between.

One particular talk stood out in my mind as one that I need to research, learn, and discuss with my larger team to see if implementing the methods in any sense would work for us.

Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days
Sprint, the book in all its glory.

The talk was, Facilitating Google Design Sprints, given by Zeke Binion:

Making products that customers love is hard. So giving yourself 1 week to do it sounds crazy.

But many companies spend months or years building products only to learn that their customers don’t want it. Google’s Design Sprint solves this problem by focusing a cross-disciplinary team on a clearly defined problem, empowering them to generate many creative ideas, and ensuring they are building the right product by putting a prototype in front of customers in just 5 days.

The 45 minute session was focused primarily on facilitation rather than process, but I am intrigued.

In his talk he discussed Google design sprints, as outlined in Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days, and it is a process I am heavily interested in learning.

I have just received my copy of the book, so stay tuned for further process discussions.


To be clear, I am using an Amazon affiliate link to direct traffic through to Amazon. Shameless, I know. Just trying to earn a little bit of cash.



#Election 2016, #Michigan, #Politics

Michigan Election Results 2016

It’s that time again. This particular post comes with a heavy heart. Not because my candidate lost–I don’t generally vote major party–but because of what this election says about those who have voted this candidate into office. Giving in to xenophobia, racism, fear, and hatred is unconscionable.

Some might say I contributed to this by voting for a party other than one of the major parties, but I don’t see a principled selection that way. We are not limited to only two candidates–that isn’t how our system works, and I’m happy for it.


President (National, 270 needed)(Sigh)

Hillary Clinton (D)
47.6% / 218 Electoral Votes
Donald Trump (R)
47.5% / 289 Electoral Votes

President (Michigan, 16 EV)

Hillary Clinton (D)
47.3% / 2,239,745
Donald Trump (R)
47.6% / 2,255,356 Votes
Gary Johnson (L) 3.6%
 
Jill Stein (G) 1.1%
 

House District 6

Paul Clements (D)
28.4%
Fred Upton (R)
67.3%
Lorence Wenke (L) 4.9%
 

79th District State Representative

Marletta Seats (D)
38.4%
Kim LaSata (R)
58.7%
Carl G. Oehling (T) 2.8%
 

Reaction

PRESIDENTIAL RESULTS Hell! Brimstone! Fire! I’m not certain what stage of grief I’ve reached, but it’s certainly not acceptance. I underestimated how much people despised Hillary Clinton. I underestimated how much people would accept a man that looked and acted nothing like a presidential individual–speaks his mind was the refrain.

I do not understand.

Appealing to voters with divisiveness and bigotry, as well as a dislike of what Clinton represents, is not the same as sending a message of solidarity and revolution–which is the message I am receiving from some supporters. It means that people didn’t want the status quo. They want what they see as their way of life back and they think the establishment won’t provide it. I can appreciate that voters felt marginalized by what they see as a ruling class that doesn’t understand or represent them–that much is obvious–but I would not gloat or be happy about the fact that this particular candidate is the face of that movement. Trump winning truly does empower those who would further marginalize minority groups and exposes a deeper hatred than I ever guessed was possible. Even if as President he is nothing like that, he rode that wave into office. That in itself is deplorable and shameful.

I accept that our political system is broken and produces results that ignore a great portion of the population’s wants and desires, but that group is ignoring the realities of life and how the world operates. I am truly ashamed of this result.

Face palm
Seriously guys!?

LEGISLATIVE BODIES This is where all of the action is. This is where I’m mostly confused. People used Trump as a vehicle for change–a vote to protest the political system–but they largely kept their reps and senators. This was a mistake of the largest order. Most of the work is done in the House and Senate, while the President helps to set an agenda for the next four years. In this case, Trump’s own party disliked him. We are unlikely to see the sort of massive change those hoping for his election sought.

My districts were no different, and have been historically Republican for as long as I can remember. I really have no other reactions here. This is a national shame in a way that I don’t think Trump supporters or protest voters fully understand.


Information gathered from CNN Election Results and 2016 Michigan Election Results, accessed on November 9th, 2016.


#Branding, #Coca-Cola, #Design

Coca-Cola Variants With New Packaging Strategy

Coca-Cola is switching gears with a new packaging strategy, according to AdAge. Their focus is going to be on variants of Coca-Cola rather than on separate brands depending on consumer desire.

Earlier this year, Mr. de Quinto told Ad Age that loyal consumers “always have loved the brand Coca-Cola.” But “there are moments when this consumer wants to reduce their sugar intake.” In those cases, Coke was forcing people to buy into a completely separate identify, he explained, referring to Diet Coke and Coke Zero.

He goes on to describe how this strategy implied that the product wasn’t really for everyone–that it wasn’t all inclusive–and that’s an intriguing notion.

Proposed product lineup. Photo from Coca-Cola, used at AdAge

8oz_Glass_One_Brand_line_up

Same family but no different–they’ve changed nothing about the product.

From an aesthetic standpoint, I love this strategy. Everything feels like a product family, the approach is clean, and the rationale surrounding it seems rather intriguing. By positioning these options as variants of Coke, rather than separate products, I wonder if it will create confusion in-store or if this will seem like a natural evolution for consumers?

Overall, I’m curious to see what it looks like when it is introduced later this year.


#Life advice

Ways I Can Be Better as a Person

While I believe the post1 I got this information from is referencing only men, the advice is fairly solid and can apply to any adult. These are things that can be done better by me in my public and private life.

1. A man has public decorum. He opens doors for ladies and his elders as a sign of respect; likewise, he walks on the side of the curb and he offers his jacket. He minds his P’s and Q’s at all times, whether he is with the janitor or the CEO. A man never makes anyone wait for he is always on time. A man is never rude.

This one in particular is one that I find to be of the utmost importance (is never rude and minds manners), and any time I fail in following it, I am extremely disappointed in myself and my actions. I hope to get better every day and to be a better person tomorrow than I am today. I know as a human being I’m prone to failures, but I take each and every one of those failures personally and to heart.


  1. Top Ten Ways to be a Man. Accessed 2/15/16

#Flint, #Politics

The Flint Water Crisis

I’m not going to be an apologist for the governor–or the government of Flint–in this case, but we’ve got to stop demonizing politicians we don’t agree with when things go wrong. It’s very, very easy to blame our political enemies for a crisis when the truth is closer to everyone being at fault. So blame them all accordingly.

I was reading an article today that discussed the situation in flint in a manner that reflects my thinking, in that while “observing the reporting taking place over the Flint Water Crisis…I’ve noticed a lot of things that are reported that are not helpful and in fact can make the situation in Flint worse.”1

I’m just tired of the divide in politics, sports, and life that online communication creates.

What most of the public is focused on–in terms of laying blame for what happened–is looking for that single individual that is responsible, rather than seeing multiple failure points and people as the cause. So, while public outcry is healthy, focusing public time and attention on trying to single out any one person as more culpable than others is energy poorly spent. What people seem to do more often than not is look for a villain to blame in situations like this. There is likely a name for this kind of psychological response to issues that are more complex and awful than we can properly process.

Now to Governor Snyder. It goes without saying that his legacy will forever be tarnished by what happened in Flint. And I will agree that he moved [too] slowly to deal with this crisis. But when people want to take a break from calling for Snyder to resign, they might want to look at what Snyder is doing now-which seems to be a lot.

Now you can probably sit back and say this is a politician trying to cover his own ass after the fact–and perhaps that is true–but again, he’s not the only one at fault, and his party wasn’t alone in creating the situation that got us here.

So, what?

I’ll say this, people need a reason that can be neatly wrapped and understood when situations like this arise rather than acknowledging that these things happen for complex reasons that are not alway attributable to nefarious machinations. More likely than not it’s systemic incompetence. That’s not one single person, that’s a gaggle of incompetent folk at fault. How do we fix that? Not by trying to find a villain to blame. Expend the effort in rooting out the problem, not pinning it on one person–particularly when the problem runs much deeper than that.

This article isn’t giving sole credit to the governor for local successes, merely pointing out that he has taken on a lot of responsibility for what happened and at least appears to be doing something–after the fact. It’s giving another perspective on the situation that points out how complex the causes were.

The reason I even post something like this is because I see a lot of tirades in association with the governor on this issue without even registering that it’s not the type of problem that occurs during one or two terms in office–it’s one that’s run its course and come to this conclusion over the course of many decades.


This was expanded from multiple discussions I’ve had on social media over the past day.

  1. Flint Water Crisis Update. Dennis Sanders. Accessed 1/27/2016.
    http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/blog/2016/01/26/flint-water-crisis-update/.

#Abraham Lincoln, #Civil War, #History

Dedication of the Cemetery at Gettysburg by Abraham Lincoln

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate–we can not consecrate–we can not hallow–this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain–that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom–and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.


What an incredibly powerful, yet succinct, speech given by a universally lauded President. He has his critics, and rightly so, but the noble words used on that day, November 19, 1863, are highly inspiring and somber.


#Ghost, #WordPress

WordPress is Catching My Attention Again

Ever since Ghost was released I’ve been incredibly interested in installing and learning the platform–even toying with the idea of switching over completely. Alas, on my host, this is impossible due to Ghost’s dependency on node.js, and so I was left reeling just a bit.

It was in this fugue state over the past month that I discovered just how much I truly love WordPress again, particularly with the introduction of version 3.8 and the updates being made to the admin screen. I’m very happy with what is happening there, and I have faith in the platform as a whole. Yes, it can be a little bloated; yes the plugins aren’t always well written; but none of these things really detract from the flexibility of the system.

I’m excited to develop for WordPress again, and I can’t wait to see what’s coming next.


#Healthcare, #Politics

Thoughts on Healthcare.gov

I’m not going to take this on as a design or front-end-development critique, because it will add nothing to the conversation. Plus, politics are my style man.

I’m dead serious. The site itself has a nice look to it, but the back end man…yikes.

What I know from the web development community is that there are scaling issues when it comes to front-end performance, but nothing that cannot be corrected fairly easily. And I for one found it promising that the site was built using responsive design, though I’m not so certain I’d enjoy signing up for healthcare through a mobile phone.

The back end, on the other hand, has been a bit of a disaster for a plethora of reasons, but primarily because the entire system is reliant upon the robustness of antiquated systems; from the descriptions of the issues it appears the entire structure was not adequately tested for the projected user load, but the fact that it failed under strain is not surprising. But I’m done rehashing these points.

“If you like your plan, you can keep it…”

What makes the entire affair an unmitigated disaster is what it ultimately means for consumers and citizens–it means increased costs. This was not an unexpected consequence of the rules that were implemented.

What some were not expecting to see was their existing insurance plans being phased out in an effort to offer plans that meet the requirements of the PPACA. The law required existing plans to essentially remain unchanged in order to maintain a grandfathered status; because this rule included maintaing the cost structure from year to year, this became impossible in practice. The result is a doubling of cost to the consumer as unnecessary coverages are tacked on. You in fact, do not get to keep your plan no matter how much you love it.

If you’re one of the unlucky few to lose your current coverage, and are pushed into the exchange system, you’ll be confronted by much higher coverage costs than you’re used to.

Couple these two points with the exchange system failures and you have the potential for major disruptions in coverage for many consumers. Will that lead to decreases in coverage in complete opposition to the reason the law was touted to begin with? I expect it in the short run.

We should be decreasing costs

If we want health inflation to stay low and health care costs to be less of an anchor on advancement, we should want more Americans making $50,000 or $60,000 or $70,000 to spend less upfront on health insurance, rather than using regulatory pressure to induce them to spend more. And seen in that light, the potential problem with Obamacare’s regulation-driven “rate shock” isn’t that it doesn’t let everyone keep their pre-existing plans. It’s that it cancels plans, and raises rates, for people who were doing their part to keep all of our costs low.

Ross Douthat

Precisely right. Aside from the mandate, the fact that every regulation in the new law screamed increased costs for consumers was a giant red flag that proponents of the legislation either ignored completely or denied were even issues.

In spite of the fact that we want as many people as possible to be covered, this was never a good solution. The website is another example of how much of a shit-show the entire thing was.


#Missing In Action

Where In The World Have I Been?

What a fast six months it has been since I started my new job. I’ve loved every minute of it, but man has it kept me from doing much thinking about writing. I have literally had nothing to say or add since May, and that makes me a little bit sad. I even took my site down–sort of–for a month and a half. Just thought I’d keep a simple landing page going.

I’m not going to promise that I can keep up, but over the course of the next year I plan to develop an iOS app of my own. I’ll catalog the process here as often as I can, and hopefully learn a thing or three in the process.

So, it is nice to be back.