Canadian Rock Pantheon

Listening to NPR’s All Songs Considered in the car, Stacy and I somehow got on to the topic of the Canadian Rock Pantheon. When it first came up, I thought the list would be long, but in our conversation, only two entrants qualified in my mind: Rush and The Guess Who. Stacy wanted to add The Tragically Hip, but I’m wary of including a band that had no significant uptake south of the border. We also dismissed the singer-songwriter folkies (e.g., Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen) as, well, not rock. We considered Neil Young, but while Canadian, pretty much his entire meaningful career existed in the United States.

On Twitter, I posed the question “Who is in the Canadian Rock Pantheon? Obvi, Rush and The Guess Who. Whom else? Neil Young? BTO? The Hip? Bryan Adams?” For me, to be Canadian Rock Pantheon, the band/person must have: recorded primarily in Canada; played guitar-driven rock; and had a lasting influence and presence. The latter criteria rules out a number of indie bands (such as Arcade Fire, New Pornographers) — to be in a pantheon requires the test of time. Given the criteria, and the feedback I got from Twitter, this is what I believe to be Canadian Rock Pantheon:

And, for now, that’s it. Steppenwolf is disqualified as they didn’t become that band until the members had moved to the US. Alanis Morrissette has not demonstrated any meaningful longevity. Blue Rodeo and Bruce Cockburn have no presence south of the border. Loverboy is simply too one-hit-wonder. After seeing Anvil! The Story of Anvil, I’d consider them as a kind of special entrant given their awesome influence on an entire subgenre of rock.

I’m surprised at how few bands made it into the pantheon. The population of Canada 1960-2000 tracks very closely to the population of California in that time, yet in that time California has had many more Pantheon bands (off the top of my head: The Beach Boys, The Grateful Dead, The Doors, The Eagles, The Byrds, Metallica, Green Day (i think they qualify already) (and I’m sure these lists: Musical Groups from Los Angeles and Musical Groups from San Francisco would turn up many more.

Toddler Playgrounds and Dog Parks – Surprisingly Similar

Stacy updates the family about our son’s development with an occasionally updated blog. In the most recent post, she realized a striking similarity between toddler playgrounds (new for her) and dog parks (where she’s been going for years).

1. Everyone is there because walks around the block just aren’t enough stimulation and exercise.
2. In general, you get to know the kids’ names long before you get to know the parents’ – if you ever do.
3. There are cliques of parents who are local regulars, and who aren’t enthusiastic about chatting with parents from Other Neighborhoods.
4. On a weekday, more than half of those playing are there with “professional handlers” while their parents are at work.
5. Some of those playing are food-motivated and have good recall if you’re holding a treat. (this is not Jules)
6. Others are ball-obsessed. (this is Jules)
7. It’s time to go when your companion just wants to lay down in the sand.
8. A good run around the park means a big drink of water before heading home for a nap.

Mindset, not process; Outcomes, not methods (What I would tell interaction design students, #2 in a series)

I had originally planned to speak in SVA’s Interaction Design lecture series yesterday, but had to cancel because I’m needed in the SF Bay Area. So, I thought I might blog the things I would have said

In school, and, well, in most companies, product design and development is approached as a process. The problem with this is that people stop being able to see the forest for the trees — they get so focused on following the process that they lose site of why they’re engaged in the process to begin with.

What’s more important than process is mindset. And when it comes to interaction design, that mindset is having empathy for and understanding your users, and creating something great for them. If you and your colleagues have the right mindset, you’ll likely do the right thing, because you won’t be satisfied until your users are pleased. At UX Week 2009, Aaron Forth, the VP of Product for, spoke. (You can see his talk here.) One thing that Aaron points out is that his team didn’t engage in anything resembling a user experience process, but because everybody at the company, from the CEO on down, cared about the user, they weren’t satisfied until they produced great results.

In Jared Spool’s talk “Journey to the Center of Design”, he claims that companies adopting a “user-centered design process’ actually produce less usable designs than those that don’t. What happens is that companies offload critical thinking onto the process, and assume that if they follow the recipe, good things will come out at the other end. It just doesn’t work that way.

Speaking of what comes out at the other end, that’s all that matters. Results and outcomes are what’s important, not the methods you use to get there. If a rigorous UCD process is what gets you to great design, awesome. If sketching on a napkin, then bringing that into Photoshop works, great. The proof of the pudding is in the eating — if people are happy to use the design, and it satisfies whatever tasks/goals/etc they seek to achieve, that’s what matters.

So, at most, use methods and methodologies as a scaffold to help you think and work through your problems. But don’t adhere to a process. Just use whatever works.

Experience (and services and systems), not products (What I would tell interaction design students, #1 in a series)

I had originally planned to speak in SVA’s Interaction Design lecture series today, but had to cancel because I’m needed in the SF Bay Area. So, I thought I might blog the things I would have said

This is a subject I’ve talked about at length before, perhaps most notably in the essay, “Experience IS the Product… and the only thing users care about”, the slidecast “Experience is the Product”, and it was a main theme in Adaptive Path’s book Subject to Change. So I won’t go into in detail again, but it’s worth acknowledging that most people still approach product development very much from a features-and-functionality standpoint, and most design work gets so focused on the specific outcome that the designers lose sight of the ecosystem in which their work must fit.

In this increasingly complex world, product design is really systems design. A number of elements must be marshaled and coordinated. But it doesn’t make sense to design a system for the sake of it.

So, a system to what end?

I would argue, a system to support great experiences for people. And from figuring out how to support the delivery of great experiences, then design the interactions, identify the touchpoints, and build the systems that support that.