Come to MX East and I will buy you dinner…or something else

Scott Berkun is, among other things, very clever. He’s offering a free dinner to anyone who attends MX East using his promotional code. So, not only do you get 15% off the registration, you get a personal gift — either dinner, a signed copy of his book, or he’ll write a blog post on a topic of your choice.

Well, that’s definitely raised the ante, and I feel obliged to at least meet it, and maybe raise it a little more. If you come to MX East, and use my promotional code FOPM, not only will you receive the 15% off the registration price, but I will also offer you a personal gift.

As dinner is already provided at MX East, I will buy you dinner either in your home city, or when you visit the San Francisco Bay Area. If connecting for dinner is too challenging, I’ll happily ship you your choice of some of the best that the Bay Area has to offer:

  • chocolates from Rechiutti (San Francisco), Scharffenberger (Berkeley), or Joseph Schmidt’s (San Francisco).
  • Two pounds of Philz or Blue Bottle coffee (the latest coffee crazes in the Bay Area)
  • Junipero Gin (from San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing Company)MX East has come together real well. We’ve got an amazing lineup, including:
  • Joshua Wesson, CEO, innovative wine merchant Best Cellars
  • Mark Jones, Service Design Director, IDEO
  • Irene Au, Director of User Experience, Google
  • Khoi Vinh, Design Director, The New York Times
  • Ryan Armbruster, SPARC Innovation Program, Mayo Clinic
    and many many more!

Thoughts on (and pics of) the original Macintosh User Manual

I recently purchased an original Macintosh User Manual (thanks eBay!). I had seen one at a garage sale, and was struck by how it had to explain a total paradigm shift in interacting with computers. I figured I could learn something about helping make innovation happen.

It’s been an intriguing read. It’s a remarkably handsome manual, beautifully typeset, which, considering par for the course at the time was probably Courier with few illustrations, is saying something.

Also, even back in 1984, there was no definite article. You get phrases like “With Macintosh, you’re in charge.” No “the”s or “a”s.

One of the more striking things was how every
Chapter is introduced with a full-color photo of Macintosh being used. Here they are (click on them to see bigger sizes):

Macintosh User Manual - <br />Chapter 1″ /><br />Chapter 1</a></p>
<p><a href=Macintosh User Manual - <br />Chapter 2″ /><br />Chapter 2</a></p>
<p><a href=Macintosh User Manual - <br />Chapter 3″ /><br />Chapter 3</a></p>
<p><a href=Macintosh User Manual - <br />Chapter 4″ /><br />Chapter 4</a></p>
<p><a href=Macintosh User Manual - <br />Chapter 5″ /><br />Chapter 5</a></p>
<p><a href=Macintosh User Manual - <br />Chapter 6″ /><br />Chapter 6</a></p>
<p><a href=Macintosh User Manual - Appendices

The first thing I appreciated was how Macintosh is set within somewhat normal (and quite varied) contexts of use.

Then I noticed that, with the exception of
Chapter 5, every photo shows a preppy white male using the computer. Women and people of color need not apply! (The dude in
Chapter 4 even has a *sweater* around his shoulders!!!)

Chapter 5 exudes preppiness with the glass brick backdrop.

Also, why is the keyboard in
Chapter 3 positioned like that? Why on earth was it posed that way?


The thing you’ll notice in
Chapter 6 (and maybe you saw it in the Appendix) was the infamous Mac carrying case. There’s a page about it, which I photographed:

Macintosh User Manual - Carrying Case
Carrying Case – On The Go!

The introduction of the manual greets you with this image:

Macintosh User Manual - Introduction

Dig that reflection! Apple returned to the reflection as a visual element a few years ago…

Some of the best stuff, of course, is explaining how the thing works.

Macintosh User Manual - Clicking
Clicking and Dragging (pretty straightforward)

My favorite is scrolling. I can imagine the discussion: “Well, it’s called a scroll bar… I know, let’s use a drawing of a scroll!” Yes. Because people in the mid-80s were all about scrolls…
Macintosh User Manual - Scrolling

And, hey, Where Does Your Information Go?

Macintosh User Manual - Saving
You’ll probably want to click for details

Oh! That’s where that metaphor comes from…

Macintosh User Manual - Desktop

And perhaps the strangest sentence: “The Finder is like a central hallway in the Macintosh house.”

Macintosh User Manual - Finder Rooms

(And the disk is a… guest? Someone looking for the bathroom?

It’s been surprisingly delightful flipping through this little bit of computer history. The pace, and deliberateness, with which the system and its interface are explained are quite impressive.

Beyond The “T” – Coordinating Realistic Design Teams

It’s not uncommon, when talking about designers and what to hire for, you hear about “T-shaped people.” IDEO is most commonly identified with this, wherein you hire people with with a strong “vertical leg” in a specific skill, and an empathy that allows them to branch out and engage other disciplines.

Yesterday at Adaptive Path’s UX Week 2007, I sat on a panel on “Skills for Current and Future User Experience Practitioners”. As the conversation evolved, we started talking about design teams. Through the discussion, I had a lightning storm in my brain, where I realized that “T-shaped” is insufficient.

Let me step back a bit. I have long had issue with the fetishization of “T-shaped” people for the simple reason that I’m not T-shaped. I’ve never been able to articulate my “vertical leg”. Throughout my career I’ve moved from activity to activity, from web development to interface design to information architecture to user research to product strategy. And I think my success is due to my ability to understand the synthesis across these skills and disciplines, to appreciate how to orchestrate them, to know how these integrate to achieve optimal affect.

So, where do I fit, if I’m not T-shaped?

On the panel, and, honestly, this idea germinated as I was sitting on-stage, I realized that you don’t necessarily want a team of all T-shaped people. The reality of the world is that you have T- and I- and bar-shaped people, and I suspect that the strongest teams are comprised of all three that work in concert. Me, I’m a bar-shaped person. I’m all about the connections between disciplines, and being able to articulate the power of that integration. Obviously, T-shaped people are important, too, people who can bridge that synthesis and go deep. But perhaps most important is that we no longer marginalize I-shaped people. It’s easy to dismiss I-shaped folks, people who simply want to focus on, geek out to, their particular passion. But these people can be amazing on teams, because once you give them a bit of a direction, they can do amazing work.

Anyway, I think it’s unreasonable to expect to live in a world of T-shaped people, and, honestly, it’s remarkably limiting. Let’s instead figure out how to coordinate across different types of creative people, ideally realizing a whole that is greater than its parts.

This is a subject I think will come up a lot at Adaptive Path’s upcoming MX Conference, taking place October 22-23 in Philadelphia. If this topic resonates with you, I encourage you to attend! (Use promotional code FOPM to receive 15% off the registration fee.)

Lookit that! iPhone knows I’m a grown-up!

Earlier today I learned that iPhone’s internal dictionary corrects typos of “shit” and “fuck”. I’m guessing there are two reasons for this. 1) Steve Jobs swears, and probably swears in his written correspondence, and no spell checker is going to give him a damn red squiggly underline when he’s using perfectly good curse words. 2) Apple assumes its users are adults, and if they want to swear, they’re not going to make the user feel needlessly uncouth by claiming their perfectly good words are “misspelled.”

(Mac OS X also recognizes “shit” and “fuck”.)

It seems like a small thing, but it’s an important detail in the design. Nearly every other computer system refuses to recognize curse words, and, in effect, condescend to their users. Apple, by recognizing the reality of English discourse, exhibits respect for their customers.

Gobbling… an emerging paradigm?

[I know I haven’t been very active here… I’m not leading a life of the mind so much of late… Very much caught up in what it takes to help run Adaptive Path, which is very much a matter of rolling up sleeves and simply getting things done. All that said…]

So, I’ve been involved in an actual project lately, working in the world of financial services. A big challenge that users have is overwhelm, particular when it comes to investment choices, account types, and the near infinite permutations of the two. We realized that people need to be able to easily save/store/set-aside such choices and account types, so that they can come back to them later, or be able to manipulate them free from the rest of the site experience.

The approach we found ourselves moving toward was akin to the Yahoo Gobbler explained by Bill Scott a few months ago, which is similar-ish to Google Notebook.

And thinking about it, and thinking of the overwhelm that people increasingly face trying to get things done online is making me feel that the Gobbler paradigm is likely emergent, particularly with Ajax enabling a seamless interaction with such a tool. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see gobbling functionality provided across a variety of sites.

October Is Conference Time

Two events I’ve had a hand in programming take place this October.

At the beginning of the month (October 4-5) is the IDEA Conference, our second go at an event about the design of complex information spaces of all kinds. Last year’s event was amazing (listen to talks and view presentations here), and this one could possibly be better! We’re doing a lot to emphasize New York City this time around (as it’s our host), and that focus should prove intriguing. Shit, we’ve got someone from 311 speaking!

Then later in the month (October 22-23) is MX East, Adaptive Path’s conference on managing experiences through creative leadership, where we focus on what it takes to get great experiences out into the world (hint: it’s not just great design, nor brilliant strategy). The first MX sold out, and we’re expecting this to do the same. We’ve got an amazing slate of speakers (I’m particularly thrilled by Joshua Wesson, CEO of Best Cellars, a company I’ve been writing about here at for 6 years!), and the event is produced by Procreation Design Works, who produce a little event you may have heard of called TED.

I hope to see you some time in October!